Early Cancer Detection: The Importance of Awareness and Self-Examination

By Dr. Saurabh Tiwari in Cancer Care / Oncology

Jun 07 , 2023 | 3 min read

Cancer is a multifactorial disease that affects millions of lives worldwide. Early detection plays a crucial role in increasing survival rates and improving treatment outcomes. Let’s explore the importance of cancer awareness and provide practical information on how to detect signs and symptoms at an early stage.

Common Warning Signs and Symptoms

While the specific symptoms of cancer vary, it is essential to be aware of some general warning signs.


Common Types of Cancer

Warning Signs and Symptoms


Breast Cancer

Lump or thickening in the breast, changes in breast size or shape, nipple discharge or inversion, skin changes (dimpling, redness, or puckering)


Lung Cancer

Persistent cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing up blood, hoarseness, recurrent respiratory infections


Colorectal Cancer

Changes in bowel habits (diarrhoea or constipation), blood in stool, abdominal pain or cramps, unexplained weight loss


Prostate Cancer

Frequent urination, weak urine flow, pain or discomfort in the pelvic area



Unusual skin growth or changes in moles (asymmetry, irregular borders, colour variations, size enlargement), sores that don't heal, itchiness or tenderness


Cervical Cancer

Abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain or discomfort, increased vaginal discharge, post coital bleed


Ovarian Cancer

Abdominal bloating or swelling, pelvic pain, frequent urination, feeling full quickly, changes in bowel habits


Pancreatic Cancer

Abdominal pain or discomfort, unexplained weight loss, jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes), loss of appetite, digestive problems


Liver Cancer

Abdominal pain or swelling, unexplained weight loss, jaundice, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting


Stomach Cancer

Abdominal pain or discomfort, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, bloating, unexplained weight loss, difficulty swallowing


Bladder Cancer

Blood in urine, frequent urination, pain or burning during urination, pelvic pain, urinary urgency or incontinence

Please note that these symptoms may also be caused by other conditions, so it is always better to consult a healthcare professional for evaluation and appropriate testing.

Routine Screenings and Diagnostic Tests

Screenings are effective tools for early detection as they can identify cancer before symptoms manifest.

Type of Cancer

Screening/Diagnostic Test

Targeted Population

Breast Cancer


Women aged 40 and above (recommendations may vary)

Cervical Cancer

Pap Smear

Women aged 21 and above (recommendations may vary)

Colorectal Cancer


Adults aged 45-75 (earlier for high-risk individuals)

Prostate Cancer

Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test

Men aged 50 and above (earlier for high-risk individuals)

Lung Cancer

Low-Dose Computed Tomography (LDCT) Scan

Adults aged 55-80 with a significant smoking history

Skin Cancer

Skin Examination and Biopsy

Individuals with suspicious skin lesions or high-risk

Ovarian Cancer

Transvaginal Ultrasound, CA-125 Test

Women with a family history or high-risk factors

Pancreatic Cancer

No specific routine screening

High-risk individuals may undergo genetic testing

Liver Cancer

No specific routine screening

High-risk individuals may undergo imaging tests

Stomach Cancer

No specific routine screening

High-risk individuals may undergo endoscopy

Bladder Cancer

Urine Cytology, Cystoscopy

Individuals with symptoms or high-risk factors

These screenings can detect abnormal changes in the body. Regular participation in recommended screenings is vital, particularly for people with a family history of cancer or other high-risk factors.

Empowering Self-Examinations

In addition to screenings, self-examinations play an important role in detecting early signs of cancer.

Here are some key points highlighting the role of self-examination in early cancer detection:

Breast Self-Examination:

  • Breast self-examination enables individuals to become familiar with the normal look and feel of their breasts.

  • By performing monthly breast self-exams, individuals can detect any new lumps, changes in size or shape, skin abnormalities, nipple discharge, or other unusual breast changes.

  • Early detection of breast cancer through self-examination can lead to timely medical intervention, improving treatment outcomes and increasing the chances of survival.

Skin Self-Examination:

  • Regular skin self-examinations help in detecting skin cancers like melanoma at an early stage.

  • Individuals can examine their skin from head to toe, looking for any new moles, changes in existing moles (such as asymmetry, irregular borders, colour variations, or size enlargement), or other skin abnormalities.

Testicular Self-Examination:

  • Testicular self-examination involves checking the testicles for any lumps, swelling, or other abnormalities.

  • By performing monthly testicular self-exams, individuals can identify any changes in size, shape, or consistency of the testicles, which may be signs of testicular cancer.

  • Early detection of testicular cancer through self-examination can lead to timely medical intervention, potentially improving treatment outcomes and preserving fertility.

Oral Self-Examination:

  • Oral self-examinations involve inspecting the mouth, gums, tongue, and throat for any unusual growths, sores, or changes in colour or texture.

  • Regular oral self-examinations can help detect early signs of oral cancers, allowing individuals to seek dental or medical attention for further evaluation.

By empowering individuals to perform these simple yet effective self-examinations, we encourage early detection and proactive healthcare.

By educating individuals about the warning signs, emphasising the importance of routine screenings, and empowering them with knowledge about self-examinations, we can enable people to take proactive steps in managing their health. Take the first step towards prioritising your health. If you have any concerns or need guidance, we urge you to consult your healthcare provider or specialist.