What to know when symptoms are not obvious

Silent cancer is one that does not present noticeable symptoms. It represents a unique challenge for early detection and treatment.

Contrary to popular belief, cancer does not always announce its presence through obvious symptoms or signs. Many people are diagnosed accidentally, during routine medical checkups or investigations of an unrelated health problem. This seems to be the case with Kate Middleton and King Charles.

Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant cells form in the tissues. It can also develop in men.

Although even silent cancers can sometimes be aggressive and progress rapidly, they can also remain dormant for years or even decades. Some types of cancer, such as prostate, breast, and thyroid cancer, for example, generally progress slowly without obvious symptoms or spreading beyond the original area.

The importance of early diagnosis

Regardless of the type of cancer, It is always important to get an early diagnosis.

Some cancer symptoms can be vague and easily confused with benign diseases. The fatigue, unexplained weight loss and persistent pain They are among the nonspecific symptoms that may indicate an underlying malignancy. But this Symptoms can be easily misinterpreted or dismissedwhich contributes to delays in diagnosis and treatment.

Fortunately, in many countries, such as the United Kingdom, screening tests for diseases such as breast or colon cancer are already available to increase early diagnosis.

In Argentina, more than 60 thousand people die each year due to some type of cancer.

Early diagnosis is an essential factor for successful cancer treatment. Detecting cancer in its silent phase provides a window of opportunity for early intervention and improved outcomes. The discovery of asymptomatic cancer through imaging or screening tests highlights the importance of these proactive health measures.

Identifying cancer at an early stage means the disease is confined to its place of origin, smaller, and potentially easier to cure. Diagnosing a minor cancer usually means that if surgery is necessary, it may be less invasive.. There may also be a lower chance of needing postoperative preventative chemotherapy to eliminate residual cells.

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a good example that shows the importance of early detection. Studies show that patients who participate in screening tests, such as colonoscopies or tests that look for blood in stool, are more likely to be diagnosed while asymptomatic and have more positive prognoses after treatment. Those who are diagnosed with CRC after experiencing symptoms, such as rectal bleeding or changes in bowel habits, tend to have more advanced tumors and worse outcomes.

Public health initiatives aimed at increasing awareness of the importance of cancer screening and recognition of symptoms play a key role in reducing delays in diagnosis.

Empower people to take preventive health measuressuch as HPV vaccines and risk-reducing lifestyle changes, may facilitate early detection and intervention, potentially altering the trajectory of the disease.

Biomarker discovery

The latest advances in diagnostic technologies, often known as “biomarker discovery,” hold promise for improving early detection rates and refining treatment strategies for silent cancers.

From molecular profiling to liquid biopsy techniques (blood tests to diagnose cancer), Innovative approaches are reshaping the cancer diagnosis landscapeoffering new paths towards personalized and precision medicine.

For example, I worked with a team that used blood tests to identify cancers in more than 1,000 women who were called back after a mammogram. We analyze the DNA released by tumor cells, the so-called cell-free DNA, and also metabolomics (rare markers related to metabolism in the blood). From this information we find healthy patients, benign diseases, precancerous and breast cancer. Although there is greater awareness and use of this approach in Europe, it is not standard in the UK.

Asymptomatic cancers pose a formidable challenge to patient care. But by encouraging patients to adopt preventative lifestyles and participate in examinations and testsasymptomatic cancers do not have to be a hidden threat to health.

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With information from The Conversation.

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