Cancer is now the greatest killer globally; several prominent Nigerians have of recent lost their lives through cancer of the cervix, breast cancer, ovarian cancer ,prostate cancer , lung cancer, cancer of the oesophagus and liver cancer. Awareness of the disease is key.
Most cancers are to a large extent preventable. About 30 percent of all cancers can be prevented by change in lifestyle, diet, exposure and immunization. This is called Primary prevention. Another 30 percent can be prevented by early detection and effective treatment, this is secondary prevention.
Some cancers have no standard screening methods; cancer of the ovaries falls into this category.
We now go further to discuss the details of some secondary prevention methods.
1.Screening for cancer of the cervix.
The incidence of cancer of the cervix is said to have declined considerably in developed countries maybe due to screening. There are three main screening methods but only the first mentioned is popular in Nigeria.
a. Papanicolaou (Pap) Swear – This is a relatively simple procedure which can detect easily cancer of the cervix. Recommended every two (2) years for women above 40 years.
b. Human Papilloma Virus Test- is used also to detect early cancer as this virus is very associated with cancer of the cervix and helps to strength the result of the first test above.
c. Visual Inspection with acetic acid-This is not a common method here but is widely used in India. The cervix is inspected after applying acetic acid. It is quite sensitive but not quite specific.
2.Screening for breast cancer.
Breast cancer is one of the commonest cancers globally; it is also one of the cancers with a great level of awareness. Screening methods include:
a. Self-Examination – every woman can learn to examine her breasts methodically, divide the breast with your finger into four parts and with the flat of your palm examine each of the four parts for any small seed/ mode/mass. See a doctor if you feel anything.
b. Physical examination by medical or Paramedical personal whenever the opportunity arises or annually.
c.. X-ray of the breasts (Mammography), annually or biannually, is the third screening method.
3. Screening for Prostate Cancer
Regular (annual) rectal examination is now recommended for all men above the age of 50 years together with Prostate Specific Antigen test. The first screening establishes a base line and this is compared to succeeding annual screenings.
Another screening method though not too common is use of ultrasound through the rectum.
4.Screening for Cancer of the large intestine.
Screening for the above cancer involves stool test for blood and visual inspection of the rectum and the large intestine using special instruments called colonoscope and sigmodoscope. These two methods can detect early cancer and its precursor’s polyps.
5.Screening for cancer of the mouth.
Four methods are available for easily detection of cancer of the mouth:
a. Self-examination of the inside of the mouth
b. Examination of the inside of the mouth by a health professional
c. Examination of the inside of the mouth after applying a dye and
d. Microscopic examination of a piece of material taken from the mouth.
None of these is done on a large scale; it is more on individual basis.
6.Screening for cancer of the stomach.
Screening for stomach cancer is recommended for people above 50 years of age. Two known tests are done –gastroscopy (endoscopy) and Photofluorography with low false negative rates. If involves examination of the inside of the stomach using special instruments by specially trained doctors. Persons can also be tested for a kind of bacteria in the stomach which is associated with stomach ulcers – H. Pylori