Physician's Weekly
July 1, 2022
How long does it take for cancers to be detected? (Part II)

Q: Are most cancers there for a while before they are actually detected?

Part I was published in last Friday’s Searchlight.

Once detected early, many cancers are 100% curable.

Pancreatic: Mathematical models have shown that after the appearance of the first cancerous pancreatic cell, pancreatic cancer takes 6 to 7 years to spread beyond the pancreas . The poor prognosis of pancreatic cancer has little to do with the aggressiveness of this cancer. It is linked to the fact that pancreatic cancer is much more likely to be diagnosed late and after it has spread beyond the pancreas. Unfortunately, there is no reliable screening test currently available for the early detection of pancreatic cancer. However, there is research presently taking place at a number of oncology centers around the world focused on uncovering a test that is capable of detecting a blood protein that is specific to pancreatic cancer, which would help us to reliably detect pancreatic cancer in a timely manner before it has spread. Such a test would allow doctors to treat pancreatic cancer while it is still curable. It is estimated that such a test should be widely available within 3 to 5 years.

Lung: By the time the most common type of lung cancer has been diagnosed, it has been there for a number of years. Lung cancers are notorious for not showing any early symptoms or signs. For example, in the case of squamous cell carcinoma, a common type of lung cancer, it takes on average eight years for the cancer to reach the size of 3cm, the size at which it is most commonly diagnosed. For individuals at high risk for the development of lung cancer, a low-dose spiral CT scan is the only test that has been consistently shown to be able to identify and detect the many varieties of lung cancer in their earliest and curative stages.

Uterine/ Endometrial: Endometrial cancer involves the lining of the uterus/ womb and is one of the most common gynaecological cancers. Women between the ages of 55 and 65 are at the highest risk. However, endometrial cancer can also develop in women beyond the age of 65. Endometrial cancer is generally relatively slow-growing and in most instances when it is diagnosed it is confined to the uterus and totally curable. Any woman who experiences bleeding vaginally six months or more after going into menopause should be investigated for endometrial cancer. Most cases of endometrial cancer will present with vaginal bleeding or an abnormal vaginal discharge when the cancer is at an early and treatable stage, however, in some instances there are no early symptoms and endometrial cancer may not be uncovered until it has spread beyond the uterus/ womb. Endometrial sampling is considered the gold standard for diagnosing endometrial cancer. This is whereby biopsies or curetted samples of the endometrium are taken and sent to the lab for microscopic evaluation in order to determine the status of the endometrium.

Author: Dr. C. Malcolm Grant – Family Physician, c/o Family Care Clinic, Arnos Vale,, [email protected], 1(784)570-9300 (Office), 1(784)455-0376 (WhatsApp)
Disclaimer: The information provided in the above article is for educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you are seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Dr. C. Malcolm Grant, Family Care Clinic or The Searchlight Newspaper or their associates, respectively, are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information provided above.