The place was Padua, Italy and the year was 1761. Giovanni Morgagni had started the practice of conducting autopsies to determine causes of death. He was the first in the modern age to discover tumors. In so doing, he laid the foundations for modern oncology, which means the study of cancer.
The research Morgagni performed combined with the development of anesthesia a century later resulted in the first cancer surgery, the radical mastectomy. Today, cancer diagnoses are very different. In fact, many diagnoses can occur before a patient notices a symptom. So, how does an oncologist diagnose cancer?
No Symptoms Versus Symptoms
Because so much is known today about cancer and the way it develops in the human body, researchers have developed a number of ways to detect it both before and after symptoms become experienced. Ideally, if a person learns of cancer before they notice symptoms, their outlook is far better.
Detecting Cancer When No Symptoms are Present
This understanding has led to a plethora of ways to identify the formation of cancer in the body. Most of these techniques involve lab tests but one of the most common methods is the physical exam.
Women have for decades been advised for check for lumps or abnormalities in their breasts as a way to detect cancer early, but doctors conducting a physical exam will also look for skin discoloration and organ enlargement. These could also be signs of a tumor growth.
After the age of 50, people should get a baseline colonoscopy and every decade thereafter to detect the early growth of polyps in the colon. The polyps can be safely removed and biopsies (special lab tests) can be performed to determine whether the growths are benign or cancerous. In this way, early detection often saves lives.
One of the most important things people can do to detect cancer early is to have an annual physical.
Detecting Cancer When Symptoms are Present
Sadly, most people learn of cancer after experiencing pain, bleeding, a persistent cough, or other troublesome symptoms. Their physician will often order lab tests to look for signs that cancer may be present. If the tests are positive, they will then refer the patient to an oncologist for additional testing.
Their oncologist will then use his training to identify where the suspected cancer is located. More tests will be ordered based on these suspicions which may include additional labwork and specialized imaging tests. These tests will reveal the precise location of a tumor along with the size; the oncologist will also want to determine if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
The final step in diagnosing cancer is the biopsy. A biopsy is a procedure whereby cells are collected from the growth and examined under a microscope to determine if they are cancerous. The biopsy is typically the key method for obtaining a definitive answer to the question, “Do I have cancer?”
Other less-common methods include testing cell proteins, genetic testing, and experimental techniques.
Kymera Independent Physicians Diagnose Cancer
Kymera Independent Physicians was formed when Dr. Masoud Khorsand opened his oncology practice in Roswell, New Mexico. Since then, the practice has grown to include more than 150 employees in three locations including Hobbs and Carlsbad, NM and provides a wide range of specialties and primary care.
Many with a history of cancer choose to make Kymera their primary care center because this provides them with the best access to physicians who understand and treat cancer. Thus, should the day arrive, they are in the best position to obtain an early diagnosis and quickly start treatments.
If you suspect cancer or simply want to get checked out, contact Kymera Indpendent Physicians today.