In recent times, the cancer diagnosis was considered as a verdict of death, but things have changed drastically from then on. In the past, the major reason of a high death rate from cancer was connected to diagnosis difficulties and inability of revealing the tumor. Nowadays, new methods and innovative diagnostic tools make it possible to discern the first signs of cancer early in stage, which makes the treatment much more effective.
Early stage diagnostics is an essential factor in successful treatment that leads to an ultimate recovery. That is what makes the examinations and the regular visits to doctors so important. Modern medicine has a wide range of both innovative and old, well-known tools and methods of diagnostics.
One of those ‘old’ methods is auscultation, the term for listening to the internal sounds of the body, looking for abnormal sounds. The method is widely used in therapy, cardiology, obstetrics and pulmonology and sometimes even in surgery. Doctors listen to three main hollow organs and organ systems during auscultation: the heart, the lungs, and the gastrointestinal system. Originally, there was a distinction between immediate auscultation (placing the ear directly on the body) and mediate auscultation (using a stethoscope or a phonendoscope). Regardless the fact that this method has its origin further back in history, it is widely used in modern medicine (Computer-aided auscultation).
The blood test and the urinalisys are the test panels that give a doctor the information on:
• The number of red cells, white cells and platelets
• The amount of hemoglobin in the blood
• The amount of creatinine in the blood
The tumor antigens (or tumor markers) test also helps to detect the presence of disease.An elevated level of a tumor marker indicates cancer. A tumor marker is a substance found in the blood, urine, or body tissues that can be elevated in cancer, among other tissue types. Although the tumor markers are now frequently found in the blood of young people and even kids, there elevated level can be caused by other reasons then cancer. But basically, the tumor markers test is very useful in catching the signs of disease in case of relapse.
Endoscopy typically refers to looking inside the body for medical reasons using an endoscope, an instrument used to examine the interior of a hollow organ or cavity of the body (flexible tube with the transmitting lence and an eyepiece on the end). Unlike most other medical imaging devices, endoscopes are inserted directly into the organ. The endoscopy is usually combined with target biopsy (biopsy under visual control).
Types of Endoscopy:
- Gastroscopy – examination of the stomach
- Bronchoscopy – examination of the mouth, voice box, bronchi and bronchioles
- Colonoscopy – examination of the rectum and colon to the ileocaecal valve
- Hysteroscopy – examination of the uterus
- Colposcopy – examination of the cervix
- Cholangioscopy – examination of the bile ducts
- Esophagogastroduodenoscopy – examination of the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum
- Laparoscopy – examination of the abdominal or pelvic cavity
- Fistuloscopy – the examination of inside and outside fistulas
- Sigmoidoscopy – examination of the rectum and lower part of the colon
- Otoscopy – examination of the ear
- Proctoscopy – examination of the anal canal
- Thoracoscopy – examination of the organs of the chest
- Cystoscopy – examination of the bladder
- Ureteroscopy – examination of the ureter
- The bladder is examined first using a rigid cystoscope and the opening of the ureter identified for the ureteroscope
- Cardioscopy – examination of the heart cavities
- Arthroscopy – examination of the interior of a joint
- Angioscopy – examination of the vessels
Radiography is another method of diagnostics. It consists of using X-rays to view a non-uniformly composed material such as the human body. It is basically used for bones and lungs examinations, as this tool is very effective for those organs. Considering the other organs, new different forms of diagnostics can be used. Ultrasound is the method, based on cyclic sound pressure with a frequency greater than the upper limit of human hearing. This is a very effective method of malignancy detection.
The procedure consists of using a transducer, or probe to project and receive the sound waves and the return signals. A gel is wiped onto the patient’s skin so that the sound waves are not distorted as they cross through the skin. . A skilled ultrasound technician is able to see inside the body using ultrasonography to detect any pathological lesions.
Mammography is the process of using low-energy-X-rays to examine the human breast. This is a screening tool for early detection of either benign or malignant lesion. The final diagnosis cannot be based only on the mammography results, but it needs series of complementary tests.
Magnetic resonance imaging
Magnetic resonance imaging – MRI is a medical imaging technique used in radiology to visualize detailed internal structures. The machine generates a powerful magnetic field that aligns the magnetization of some atomic nuclei in the body, and radio frequency fields that systematically alter the alignment of this magnetization. Scanner detects rotating magnetic field from the nuclei and this information turns to an image of the scanned area of the body. This image is carefully analyzed by the doctor while the whole procedure. The time usually needed for MRT is about 30 min. Although the patient is “trapped” in the machine, he can always call for the doctor.
Computed tomography – CT is another effective method for the body imaging employing tomography created by computer processing.
A large series of two-dimensional X-ray images taken around a single axis of rotation turns to a three-dimensional image of the inside of the body or an organ. It is called digital geometry processing. With the help of those images doctor can clearly see organ’s condition. This is a very short procedure (5 min only), but a substantial reason is needed to conduct it as the total dose of irradiation is quite high comparing to a simple radiography. Another effective diagnostics method is:
Positron emission tomography
Positron emission tomography – PET – It is a nuclear medicine imaging technique that produces a three-dimensional image or picture of functional processes in the body. Sometimes PET is performed with the help of a contrast medium which helps to see the cross-section of the body. It is a very safe procedure that takes around 30 min.
The most effective way of diagnostic is to combine PET and CT which will give a doctor not only the image of the organs, but also to see if they are functioning in the right way.
The final diagnosis cannot be made without a biopsy. It consists of taking some cells or tissues for examination. When only a sample of tissue is removed with preservation of the histological architecture of the tissue’s cells, the procedure is called an incisional biopsy. This sample then goes through a pathologic examination, which determines whether a lesion is benign or malignant. It also helps to differentiate between different types of cancer.
This method requires local or general anesthesia. On suspicion of a breast cancer, there is a special biopsy technology called MAMMOTOME. It is a vacuum assisted breast biopsy device that uses image guidance such as x-ray, ultrasound and/or MRI to perform breast biopsies. It is very effective as it shows the exact location of the tumor. The procedure usually takes around 30 min and requires anesthesia.