It has been proven that a disease diagnosed in the early stages has a higher chance of positive outcome of treatment. In order to detect and treat a disease early, it is necessary to be attentive to certain warning signs which might be the first signals of a developing oncological disease.

For example:

  • Lump or swelling anywhere on the body
  • Change of a birthmark (color, shape, size)
  • Boil on the skin, lips or in the oral cavity which does not heal
  • Unusual bleeding from female genitals, blood in stool or in urine
  • Blood bruises under the skin
  • Long-lasting cough which does not respond to treatment
  • Problems with urination
  • Digestive problems, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, vomiting, changes in bowel movements
  • Problems with nervous system, sudden change of eyesight

If any of these signs appears, see your general practitioner as soon as possible. They will make initial examinations and rule out or confirm the suspicion of oncological disease. The patient is then referred to an oncological facility.

Further examinations are carried out regarding the initial symptoms and examination in order to specify the type, extent or stage of the disease.

The most common types of diagnostic examinations:

Clinical examination

A physician examines the patient visually, by palpation, auscultation or by taking a sample of cells or tissue which is sent to a laboratory for a histology exam.

X-ray examination

The basic and most common diagnostic method using ionizing radiation. It images hard tissues (e.g. bones). During the examination, the patient receives the shortest possible duration of radiation to the examined part of the body, other vital organs are shielded by protective equipment. X-ray examination is now digitized and the physician can see the image in their computer almost immediately. Even though the human body can mitigate the harmful effects of ionizing radiation, it is necessary to undergo X-ray examination only in indicated cases.

Mammography examination

A type of low-dose X-ray examination used for early detection of breast cancer. Breasts are inserted in a special X-ray machine and pressed between two plates in order to achieve a clear image.

USG – ultrasonography examination

Generally the first diagnostic examination of choice for internal organs and muscles, e.g. organs in the abdomen. A gel is applied on an exposed part of the affected site and ultrasound waves are emitted into the body by a USG probe which also serves as their receiver. The physician immediately sees the problematic affected site on the screen and can inform the patient about the problem presently. The examination is painless and takes only a few minutes. The patient only needs to remove their clothing according to the physician’s instructions. Given that there is no radiation exposure during an ultrasound exam, it can be repeated in short intervals, unlike X-ray.

CT – computer tomography

Examination used to image parts of the body in individual layers thanks to computer processing of X-rays. The examination is done in a ring-shaped device through which a patient passes, lying on a sliding bed. This method can be used for the entire body, it is very precise and can detect details as small as 2 mm. Unlike classic X-ray, CT has the advantage of imaging soft tissues and organs. Processing the acquired data – the intensity of radiation in individual images – creates a 3D image of the patient’s body. A contrast medium is usually intravenously administered to the patient before examination in order to get a more precise image of the examined organs and tissues.

MRI (or NMR) – magnetic resonance imagery

A modern examination method which creates detailed and very precise images of organs and tissues of the human body. It uses the force of a magnetic field. MRI is a painless examination method, performed in a tube-like device with the patient lying down, which can cause feelings of confined space. MRI does not cause pain and thanks to its safety, it is possible to repeat it several times. The patient hears a soft tapping during the examination, which is caused by the machine taking pictures. The examination takes 30 – 50 minutes.

Before both aforementioned examinations (CT and MRI), the patient must remove parts of their clothing or all of it, according to the nature of the examination, as well as all metal objects, electronic devices, credit cards, watches, jewelery, glasses, removable dentures, hearing aids, etc. Women might be asked to remove their make-up before the examination because some cosmetics contain small metallic particles. The examination is performed lying on a bed. The patient should not move during the examination because even a small movement can influence the quality of images.

PET, PET/CT – positron emission tomography as a separate examination or in combination with computer tomography

An examination which joins two diagnostic methods into one. It is an examination from the field of nuclear medicine and one of the state-of-the-art diagnostic examination methods. This examination images human tissues based on their differing metabolism. PET is a painless method during which a very small amount of radio-opaque dye is administered to the patient body. Special radio-opaque dyes with the ability to accumulate in various organs and tissues affected by pathological processes are used in order to diagnose a disease. The radiation dose a patient receives is comparable to two chest X-rays.

A hybrid PET / CT machine is used most often. This machine contains two rings, one behind the other – one for PET examination and one for CT. The patient is lying on a bed and slides through both rings, one at a time. The obtained data can then be analyzed, combined and restored in a computer to create a final image with great informative value.