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Saturday, November 3, 2012
Star Health

When and how to screen common cancers

Cancer is a shocking diagnosis for all of us. The shock increases manifolds when someone receives a diagnosis at a very late stage when very little can be offered for help. Most of the cancers are curable if these are detected at an earlier stage. Therefore, screening for common cancers is crucial to reduce the number of people who develop and die from cancer.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 7.6 million deaths (around 13% of all deaths) in 2008. Cervical, breast and colon cancer are among the most common cancers that cause significant mortality and morbidity. Knowing the following timing and guideline for screening of these common cancers may help keeping cancer at bay.

Breast cancer: Breast cancer screening means checking a woman's breasts for cancer before there are signs or symptoms of the disease. According to the latest recommendation of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a woman aged 50 to 74 years should go for a screening every two years. If you have risk factors for breast cancer like family history, obesity, exposed to radiation, lack of exercise etc., you should consult with a doctor about when and how often you should have a screening mammogram.

Colorectal or bowel cancer: Regular screening, beginning at age 50, is the key to preventing colorectal cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening for colorectal cancer using high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing at every year, sigmoidoscopy at every 5 years or colonoscopy at every 10 years beginning at age 50 years and continuing until age 75 years.

People at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer should begin screening at a younger age, and may need to be tested more frequently.

The risk factors for colon cancer are family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps (an abnormal growth of tissue), gentic abnormality presenting multiple polyps in the colon, lack of regular physical activity, low fruit and vegetable intake, a low-fiber and high-fat diet, overweight and obesity, alcohol consumption, tobacco use etc.

Cervical cancer: Cervical cancer which affects lower third of uterus (also called cervix) is the most common cancer in women in Bangladesh. It constitutes about one fourth of the total number of female cancer patients in Bangladesh. An estimated 13,000 approximate new cases and 6600 deaths occur every year in Bangladesh.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all women should start screening at age 21. For women over 21, screening should be done at every three years upto 65 years who had previous normal test results.

Cervical cancer can be detected by different screening tests called Pap smear test and HPV test, Visual Inspection of Cervix with Acetic Acid (VIA). Among these methods, VIA has been introduced by the Government of Bangladesh to screen mass population due to its cost effectiveness and easy to use method.

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