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Diagnosing cancer or other serious health issues at its earliest stages often provides the best chance for a cure. A proper discussion with a doctor is important to know about the types of screening that may be appropriate undergoing according to one’s health condition. 

Different medical organizations and patient-advocacy groups have recommendations and guidelines for different disease screening methods. Expert oncologists like Dr. Shabnam Bashir, offers some of the best methods for a proper diagnosis, for helping you to determine what's best for you. They are: 

Abdominal ultrasound: A safe and painless test used to check the major organs in the abdominal cavity. It is also used to look for tumors in the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, or elsewhere in your abdomen.  This method can help the doctor drain fluid from a cyst or abscess or examine blood flow inside your abdomen. This test is safe even in pregnancy

Sonomammography: This is Ultrasound of the breasts.This is a non-invasive method for assessing breasts and the blood flow around them. This is a painless and less expensive procedure often asked to conduct when there is a focal abnormality on x-ray mammography, a palpable abnormality, breast pain, nipple discharge, for high-risk patients with any history of breast cancer, etc. As the breast tissue is too dense in women younger than 40 yeras, it is the prefered method of screening in them as viz a viz X ray mammography.

This method is very quick and does not require any preparation. It is useful for evaluating breast masses or identifying any hidden cysts.

Digital Mammography: Mammogram is the best tool for diagnosing breast cancer in its early stages, especially in women above 40 years of age.. Digital mammograms are the perfect alternative to the traditional analog mammograms. This method allows the radiologist to capture and manipulate the images to see the abnormalities easily. Images are displayed on a computer, they can be lightened or darkened, and certain sections can be enlarged and looked at more closely. 

CT scan (computerized tomography): This method allows doctors to see inside your body and provides more detailed information than plain X-rays. The test uses a combination of X-rays and a computer to create pictures of your organs, bones, and other tissues. It can help to find if colon cancer has spread into the liver or other organs. CT scan is painless and, with newer machines, takes only a few minutes. The whole procedure normally takes around 30 minutes.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): This is a type of scan that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body. This is often used as an extremely accurate method of disease detection and an alternative method when other methods fail to provide sufficient information to confirm a patient's diagnosis. MRI can be used to look at abnormal areas in the liver or the brain, and spinal cord that could be affected by the spreading of cancer. It can also be used for rectal cancer treatments, to see if the tumor has spread into nearby structures to plan the exact treatment as it gives details as minute as differences in millimeters which can impact the neoadjuvant treatment as well as surgical techniques. 

MR Fistulogram: This is a useful and recommended diagnostic method to assess the perianal fistulous tracts in soft tissues and to accurately demonstrate disease extension and predict prognosis as well as plan the surgery .

It illustrates the location of the fistula regarding the system of anal sphincters and identifies the internal orifice and branching of the fistula. This, in turn, helps to make decisions regarding treatments. 

MR defecography: This method is a special type of MR imaging, where images are obtained at various stages of defecation. This is a noninvasive test that uses magnetic resonance to evaluate how well the pelvic muscles are working and provide insight into rectal function. It helps to determine the cause of fecal incontinence, constipation, and other conditions such as pelvic organ prolapse that may interfere with a person's ability to pass stool.

PET CT (Positron Emission Tomography): This test helps to reveal how the tissues and organs in the body are functioning. This is an effective way to examine the chemical activity in the body, different conditions, including many cancers, heart disease, and brain disorders. This test shows a problem at the cellular level, giving the doctor the best view of complex systemic diseases. This can be of immense help in initial diagnosis, in recurrence of disease as well as metastatic conditions and for response evaluation.

CT colonography: This method is used to examine the large intestine for cancer and growths called polyps. This method is also known as a virtual colonoscopy. The aim behind the test is to find these growths in their early stages so that they can be removed before cancer develops.

Colonoscopy: This test is usually performed to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine (colon) and rectum. A flexible tube (colonoscope) is inserted into the rectum by attaching a tiny video camera at the tip with the help of which, a doctor can examine the large intestine for possible causes of things like abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or changes in bowel habits. During this process, abnormal growths, called polyps, can be removed before they transform into cancers. Also biopsies of bigger growths can be taken for further management.

Authored by Dr. Shabnam Bashir

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About Dr. Shabnam Bashir

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Dr. Shabnam Bashir has time and again proved her extensive and versatile expertise as a Colorectal Cancer Surgeon. This is validated by the successful cases of patients that she has dealt with.

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