Last year, over 600,000 people died from cancer in the United States. While making a conscious effort to reduce the use of tobacco, eat healthier, and increase physical activity greatly reduces the risk of developing cancer, the use of cancer screening methods and prevention measures are necessary for early detection and treatment.

Since identifying early-stage cancer allows doctors to proactively treat the disease, early detection leads to a significant improvement in survival rates. So, how can you take steps to recognize potential warning signs, and how can early cancer detection affect the course of treatment?

Know your family history

Many risk factors for cancer, including your genes, are out of your control. Therefore, in order to eliminate the risk factors you can control, it’s important to act accordingly. Family history plays a major role in different types of cancer, so genetic counseling and earlier screenings can make a significant difference when it comes to detection, prevention, and treatment.

For example, Lynch Syndrome, a genetic condition, raises an individual’s risk of developing colon cancer by 85 percent and 40 percent, respectively, for men and women. If the condition is prevalent in your family, it’s recommended to begin colonoscopy screening by the age of 25.

In addition, the risk of developing breast cancer is significantly higher among individuals with predisposing genes, so talk to your doctor about getting mammograms early on.

Identifying warning signs

Recognizing potential warning signs of cancer allows patients to take prompt action and fight the disease in its early stages. According to the World Health Organization, common warning signs include lumps, sores that do not heal, abnormal bleeding, persistent indigestion, and chronic hoarseness.

Early detection can also include identifying symptoms that can potentially develop into cancer. For instance, if you spot a new mole, it’s important to have it checked by a dermatologist in order to determine whether it’s a potential sign of melanoma.

For cancers affecting the breasts, cervix, mouth, prostate, rectum, and skin, early cancer detection is especially important, as the disease can quickly spread. In fact, five-year survival rates for breast and prostate cancer patients with early-stage cancer is 98 percent and 100 percent, respectively.

In addition, for nearly all types of the disease, the five-year survival rate is significantly reduced when the disease is detected at an advanced stage.

Early cancer detection

Cancer screenings allow doctors to search for cancerous cells or tissues when there are no physical symptoms of the disease. Some common examples of cancer screenings include mammograms, pap smears, and colonoscopies, which detect early forms of breast, cervical, and colon cancer, respectively.

Another popular method to detect early-stage cancer is by undergoing a full body MRI scan for cancer. Nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, allows doctors to detect signs of cancer within the body and can highlight areas where cancer has spread.

MRIS are non-invasive and help doctors plan effective courses of cancer treatment, such as surgery or radiation. While MRIs are painless and do not require any special preparation, make sure to let your doctor and technologist know whether you have any metal in your body prior to the test.

The early prevention and detection of cancer are highly dependent on the actions of the patient. Therefore, it’s important to take action to act according to your family history, identify potential warning symptoms of cancer, and talk to your doctor in order to receive regular cancer screenings. Identifying early stage cancer greatly increases survival rates and saves lives.