Over 1 in 10 Indians will develop cancer in their lifetime. The diagnosis of cancer may seem like a death sentence to many. But there are several ways to ensure you can nip this ailment in the bud through active prevention and early screening.

The American Cancer Society has utilised the simple word ‘CAUTION’ to remind people to listen to their bodies and consult a doctor if any one of these following problems persists

C - Change in bowel or bladder habits.

A - A sore that does not heal.

U - Unusual bleeding or discharge.

T - Thickening or lump in the breast or elsewhere.

I - Indigestion (dyspepsia) or difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).

O - Obvious changes in a wart or mole.

N - Nagging cough or hoarseness of throat.

Several factors heighten the risk of getting cancer. Some risk factors are of our own making (smoking, alcohol consumption, etc), while other risk factors are unavoidable (a family history of cancer). The prevention of cancer can be split into modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors

Modifiable risk factors refer to health behaviours and lifestyle factors. These risk factors can be eliminated by making small changes in our lifestyles and health habits.

Tobacco use:

Any sort of tobacco consumption puts you at risk of cancer. Smoking is undeniably linked to various types of cancer - including cancer of the lungs, throat, mouth, pancreas, bladder, cervix, kidney, oesophagus and larynx. Chewing tobacco causes cancers of the mouth and throat, pancreas and oesophagus. Second-hand smoking also increases the risk of cancer.

Tobacco use has been intrinsically tied with cancer for many years now and has several other adverse side effects too. Avoiding the use of tobacco or deciding to stop using tobacco automatically reduces your exposure to cancer


Obesity is defined as the accumulation of an abnormal or excessive amount of fat, posing a severe health risk. Obesity is undeniably a risk factor for over 13 types of cancer - including cancer of the oesophagus, breast, uterus, colon and rectum, kidneys, liver, ovaries, pancreas, upper stomach, gallbladder, pancreas, thyroid and brain.

Frequent exercise combined with a balanced diet can help reduce obesity and thus reduce the risk of being exposed to cancer.

Protect yourself from the sun:

Ultraviolet rays are a known carcinogen. Prolonged exposure to UV rays from the sun causes skin cancer, one of the most common types of cancer. Skin cancer can be prevented by taking precautions against the harsh rays of the sun. Protect yourself by avoiding the midday sun (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) Wear dark-coloured loose clothing that covers your skin as much as possible. Generously use sunscreen when going out and reapply once every two hours.

Limit alcohol consumption:

People who consume more than 1 or 2 drinks per day are at a higher risk for cancer. A clear pattern has developed between alcohol consumption and increased development in the cancer of the head and neck, liver, breast, colon and rectum and oesophagus. The use of alcohol and tobacco combined gravely increases the risks of cancer than alcohol or tobacco use alone.

Avoid exposure to known carcinogens:

Carcinogens are substances or elements that cause cancer. These include materials like asbestos, nickel, radon, vinyl chloride, benzene, cadmium and benzidine. Prolonged exposure to radiation causes cancer as well. Avoid contact with these known carcinogens or use protective gear while coming into contact with them.

Non-modifiable risk factors include age, race, sex, ethnic background, family history and genetics. Factors such as family history and genetics sometimes play an important role in cancer. Cancer of the breasts, colon, ovary, prostate, skin and pancreas are hereditary. If anyone in your family has a history of cancer, it is advisable that you get screened for that particular type of cancer once a year. The only way to prevent and detect these cancers at an early stage is through periodic screening.

Women ages 40 - 44 are encouraged to get annual mammograms to check for breast cancer. People with a family history of cancer are also advised to take the relevant screening tests as a precaution. Our clinic offers tests for anyone who wishes to get themselves screened for cancer. Make an appointment with us now and get tested sooner rather than later.

Cancer screening refers to the tests done to detect symptoms of cancer in the early stages. It’s best to get regularly screened and tested for cancer, especially if you have a family history of cancer. Each type of cancer has its own type of screening.

Colorectal cancer screening:
  • Colonoscopy - It is the most common method of screening for colorectal cancer. Colonoscopy is a procedure in which the doctor inserts a flexible, lighted tube called the colonoscope into the rectum, using which the doctor checks the entire colon for polyps or cancer.
  • Sigmoidoscopy - A flexible, lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope is used to examine the lower colon for polyps or cancer. This test cannot be used by doctors to check for irregularities in the upper colon.
  • Stool DNA tests - Tests are done to analyse the stool samples of the patient to detect any changes in the DNA due to the presence of polyps of cancerous cells.
  • Double contrast barium enema (DCBE) - This uses x-rays of the colon and rectum to find any abnormal growths. Barium is used to outline the colon and rectum in the x-rays. This test is done for patients who cannot have a colonoscopy.
Breast cancer screening:
  • Self-examination - This can be a simple preliminary test done as an individual. During this, a woman feels around her breast for any irregularities or bumps. Any abnormality is then reported to a doctor before further tests are conducted.
  • Clinical breast examination - A trained medical professional examines the patient's breasts for any irregularities. Any changes in the colour of the skin of the breast or nipples are also noted.
  • Mammography - A mammography is an x-ray taken of the breast. These images are called mammograms and show any irregularities in the breast tissues. It is generally advised that women above the age of 40 get annual mammograms.
Lung cancer screening:

The only screening test recommended for lung cancer is low dose helical or spiral computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan. During this test, x-rays of the patient’s lungs are taken from different angles. These are then combined to render a detailed, 3-dimensional image that shows any abnormalities or tumors.

Liver cancer screening:

Screening for liver cancer includes testing the blood for a particular substance produced exclusively by cancer cells called alpha-fetoprotein (AFP). Other tests include imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT or CAT scans or MRI.

Cervical cancer:

There are two common types of screening tests done to detect cervical cancer. They are:

  • Pap test - During a pap test, the doctor collects the cells from the surface of the cervix and the surrounding areas using a small brush. These cells are then examined under a microscope to detect any abnormalities, such as pre-cancerous and cancerous cells.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) testing - An HPV test is usually done simultaneously with a Pap test. The cells outside of a woman’s cervix are collected and then tested for strains of HPV. Some strains of HPV indicate an increased risk of cervical cancer. An HPV test can also be done using the cells collected from the vagina of the patient.
Stomach cancer screening:

Upper endoscopy is the most common screening test done to detect stomach cancer. During an endoscopy, a flexible, lighted tube called the endoscope is inserted into the mouth of the patient. Using the camera in the tube, the doctor checks the stomach and surrounding areas for abnormal growths and irregularities.

Another test is the barium-meal gastric photofluorography, in which the patient drinks a solution containing barium. The barium lines the stomach and the oesophagus and makes the outline of these organs more visible. Several x-rays are then taken to determine any abnormalities or irregularities in the stomach to detect the presence of cancer.

Head & Neck cancer screening:

People who routinely consume alcohol and/or tobacco are advised to receive general health screening examinations at least once a year. The doctor looks in the nose, mouth and throat for any abnormalities and feels the neck for any irregular lumps. Regular dental checkups are also a vital part of screening for head & neck cancer.

It is crucial that you understand the various screening tests available to you and the accompanying risks so you can make an informed decision regarding your health. People with an increased risk of cancer (personal history of cancer, family history of cancer, older age, etc) are advised to undergo cancer screening once a year.

At Veritas Cancer Care, you can book an appointment to discuss the screening tests required for you based on your age, lifestyle and family history.

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