Cancer: Early detection, screenings and treatment options

kci at mclaren macomb

Oncologists will all agree: Early detection gives patients and doctors the best chance to treat a cancer diagnosis.

The question then becomes how to detect it early.

Cancer does not discriminate. Anyone at any age and at any time can receive a cancer diagnosis. So how do we find it in its earliest stages?

“One of the most important things that you can do for yourself is to make sure that you keep up with all your preventive screening tests,” said Dr. Rana Bilbeisi, oncologist at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Macomb. “This is a means to reduce the chances of finding an incurable disease later on.”

Dr. Bilbeisi highly recommends talking to your primary care physician about all screenings they recommend and to report all risk factors and potential symptoms.

How do doctors test for cancer?

Doctors have several tests available to determine if cancer is present in a patient’s body.

Physical exam

Physicians will feel for lumps and other abnormalities, and may order additional tests.

Laboratory tests

Bodily fluids, such as blood, urine and stool, are tested for the presence of cancer indicators.


A diagnostic test utilizing imaging technology such as computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), X-ray, bone scan and ultrasound.


Suspected tissue is removed from the body to be closely and thoroughly tested to determine the presence of cancer and, if positive, its severity.

Which cancer screenings should you get?

As Dr. Bilbeisi encouraged, talk to your primary care physician about which screenings and tests they recommend based on your age and risk factors.

Specifics risk factors are associated with specific types of cancers (for example, smoking is a major risk factor for lung cancer), and this will aid a primary care physician in their recommendation for certain screenings.

Additionally, be sure to share with your physician any changes to your health and day-to-day well-being, since what may appear to be a commonplace symptom (such as sudden onset back pain or unexplained weight loss) could in fact be symptomatic of something more serious and could benefit from a closer examination.

What is involved in cancer treatment?

“Many older individuals, when diagnosed with a cancer, assume that they are not healthy enough to receive any treatment because they are too old,” Dr. Bilbeisi says. “With new advancements in medicine, there are many medications that are very well tolerated by individuals well into their 90s. So one should not dismiss their disease as untreatable until they have spoken with their doctor.”

Dr. Bilbeisi and her fellow oncologists at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Macomb have multiple treatment options available to them and work collaboratively to choose the best option to treat each patient’s individual case.

Depending on the specifics of the case, its severity and other determinants of a diagnosis, oncologists can choose chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, immunotherapy or a combination of those treatment options.