Early and accurate diagnosis of the disease is one of the essential steps in curing or containing the disease. Especially in cancer cases, early diagnosis is the best chance of curing the disease. The more advanced cancer stage leads to more painful treatment procedures and a lesser chance of survival for the patient. An early cancer diagnosis is crucial to manage further advancement of the disease and strategize an effective treatment plan.
In cancer, the symptoms such as fatigue, severe pain, swollen bumps, etc., generally appear in its later stages when the disease has advanced to a dangerous level. Therefore, a regular screening for cancer, even for seemingly healthy people, is usually suggested by physicians.
Screening is a different procedure than diagnosis. It is used for speculative identification of an unrecognized disease in a seemingly healthy and asymptomatic population through tests, examinations, or other methods that can be applied easily to the target population. A screening procedure involves the complete process from inviting the target population to accessing effective treatment for people diagnosed with the disease.
Today, due to the toxic environmental conditions and poor lifestyle choices, people are more prone to chronic diseases such as cancer. Hence, diagnosis, prevention, and precaution are the best mechanism against cancer.
However, a lack of awareness of the available diagnostic resources and avoidance of common symptoms usually leads to late detection of the disease. It is essential to spread awareness about the technological advancement in cancer diagnostics and treatment procedures. This article further discusses the most efficient diagnostic methods available in the market.
Types of Cancer Diagnostic Methods
Technological advancements have proved to be a boon for the healthcare industry. It has led to the development of more efficient tools and techniques that have significantly increased the survival rate of cancer patients. Few such advanced diagnostic tools are mentioned as follows:
- Liquid biopsy- Liquid biopsy is a non-invasive medical procedure that holds the ability to detect the presence of molecular cancer biomarkers in biological fluids. In this procedure, any non-tissue specimen, particularly body fluids such as blood, urine, stool, saliva, pleural fluid, and cerebral spinal fluid, is used to assess for tumors in the body. Several analytes, such as circulating tumor cells (CTCs), proteins, and circulating tumor DNAs (ctDNA), in the fluid are used to detect the tumor cell.
This procedure can eliminate the need for more expensive, invasive, and painful tumor tissue biopsies to enable dynamic tumor monitoring. Blood is the most common fluid used in liquid biopsy procedures for various types of cancers, while in the case of bladder tumors, urine is the best liquid biopsy component. Urine divided into two compartments can be useful for biomarker detection: supernatant and pellet. Supernatant biomarker consists of partially fragmented cell-free tumor nucleic acids and some other tumor-derived materials, while the pellet primarily consists of exfoliated normal and cancer cells, as well as immune cells, debris, and possible bacteria.
The liquid biopsy technique also plays a critical role in the precision medicine approach, as it confirms the safe and effective application of targeted therapeutics. It helps physicians to analyze tumor-related information through a simple blood test. Liquid biopsy can be used as a better alternative for treatment and recurrence monitoring as it overcomes invasive biopsy challenges of taking a tumor sample again and again during the treatment.
Owing to the increasing burden of cancer cases and increasing adoption of advanced technologies such as next-generation sequencing (NGS) and personalized medicine is leading to significant growth in the liquid biopsy market.
According to the BIS Research report, the global liquid biopsy market is projected to reach $19,066 million by 2032 from $2.58 billion in 2021 at a CAGR of 19.83% during the forecast period 2022-2032.
- Nuclear scan– In this procedure, radioactive material is used to take pictures of the internal organs in the body. The procedure is also known as a radionuclide scan. Before the procedure, a small amount of radioactive material, known as a tracer, is injected into the patient’s body. The tracer flows through the bloodstream and layers on certain bones or organs.
Further, a scanner detects and measures the radioactivity level in the body, and a special camera capture pictures of bones or organs on a computer screen or film. After the scan, the radioactive material in the body loses its radioactivity over time. It may also be flushed out of the body through urine or stool.
This method is especially useful for cancer because it shows tumors and tracks the intensity of spread inside the body. It is also useful for monitoring the effectiveness of treatment.
- Ultrasound- An ultrasound procedure involves high-energy sound waves which echo off tissues inside the body, and a computer creates images of areas inside the body using echo waves.
During an ultrasound procedure, a technician slowly moves a device called a transducer on the skin over the part of the body that is being examined. The transducer is covered with a warm gel that makes it easier to glide over the skin.
The ultrasound procedure, also known as sonography or sonogram, enables doctors to look for tumors in certain areas of the body that may not be clear on other imaging techniques such as X-Rays. Doctors often use this along with the biopsy procedure for more accurate results.
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan– A PET scan procedure uses a mildly radioactive drug to highlight areas of the body where cells are more active than usual. It is a type of nuclear scan that creates 3-D images of targeted areas inside the body. As cancer cells often absorb more glucose than healthy cells, it helps in recognizing more active cells, and the images can be used to find a cancer-prone organ in the body.
- Bone scan- Bone scans are a type of nuclear scan that examines the abnormalities or damage in the bones. This procedure can be used to diagnose bone cancer or the spread of cancer to the bones, also known as metastatic bone tumors.
Before the procedure, a small amount of radioactive material is injected into the vein. As it travels through the blood, the material gets accumulated in problematic areas in the bone. These areas, also known as “hot spots”, are further captured by a special scanner.
Self-awareness and precautionary check-ups are essential to deal with the rising health crisis and cancer burden. Fortunately, several technological advancements are proving to be a big support for the management of such chronic diseases. Moving forward, more efficient diagnostic and treatment procedures are expected to be available in the market that can revolutionize healthcare.
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