Cancers that are difficult to diagnose
Detecting hard-to-find cancers could make all the difference when it comes to treatment. Certain cancers are easier to spot than others, and according to experts, the following cancers are the trickiest to detect early.
About seven per cent of all cancer deaths are due to pancreatic cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. So it’s safe to say cancer screening strategies are needed. “The hopeful news is that there are new technologies emerging, such as molecular blood tests and other novel approaches, that could expand early detection efforts to these historically unscreened tumour types,” says gastroenterologist Dr David A. Ahlquist, and professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.
The reason pancreatic cancer is so difficult to detect is because it’s internal, initially painless, and not generally connected to anything that would lead to symptoms. “The exception is if it happens to occur close to the bile duct, which leads to blockage and jaundice relatively early in the course of the disease,” explains surgical oncologist Dr Mark Faries. “Treatment in a fortunate minority is a very large operation, and in those whose cancer is detected later, treatment is largely based on chemotherapy and is temporarily relieving at most.”
Kidney cancer can be hard to detect because patients aren’t usually tested unless they show the symptoms, which often include lower back pain, chronic fatigue, unexplained weight loss and blood in the urine. “Because the kidneys are so deep inside the body, small kidney tumours cannot be seen or felt during an annual physical exam,” explains Dr Chris Fikry, vice president of oncology at Quest Diagnostics. “Additionally, there are no recommended screening tests for kidney cancer in people who are not at increased risk.” Patients who have certain inherited conditions that trigger tumour and cancer growths, such as Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma, and Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome have a higher risk of kidney cancer. Doctors may choose to recommend that these patients get regular imaging tests such as a computerised tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look for kidney tumours.
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