Early detection examinations and cancer warning signs
The earlier cancer is detected, the better the chances for recovery. For some cancers, such as breast, uterine, colorectal, skin, and prostate cancers, screening tests are offered with the goal of finding tumours at the earliest possible stages of development. Early stages can usually be treated more successfully and more gently than late stages, in which metastases may already have developed. Nevertheless, screening tests are also viewed critically due to some disadvantages. Therefore, it makes sense to consider and weigh the pros and cons for each procedure. At the end of such a risk-benefit assessment, a decision can be made on whether or not to perform a cancer screening examination. It is also often useful to obtain a second opinion.
If any of the following signs of illness are noticed, the attending physician should be consulted as soon as possible. Only through a thorough examination, it can be clarified whether a tumour or some other disease is the cause:
- Non-healing or persisting wounds and ulcers
- A lump or thickening in or under the skin, as well as unusually swollen lymph nodes, especially in the area of the mammary gland.
- Changes in a wart or mole
- Persistent stomach, intestinal or swallowing problems
- Persistent cough or hoarseness
- Unusual secretions from body orifices such as blood in stool or urine, coughing up blood
- Irregular menstrual bleeding or vaginal discharge stained with blood as well as bleeding or staining after the menopause
- Unintentional weight loss
A tumour can be benign or malignant. However, this may remain unclear until it has been surgically removed and examined. For cancer medicine, however, only malignant tumours are the target of treatment. A patient is considered “cured” if a successfully treated cancer does not reappear within a period of five years. Unfortunately, during the course of cancer, cells will detach from the original or primary tumour and migrate through the body via the bloodstream or the lymphatic system. If it is not destroyed by the immune system, it may settle somewhere else in the body and form a secondary tumour or metastasis. One tumour can thus become a second one.