Finding cancer early

The time to find cancer is before it spreads, which usually means before symptoms appear. The Modern Physical seeks to do just that.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death among American adults. Each year, more than 1.2 million persons in the U.S. are diagnosed with cancer. It robs its victims of an average of 15.3 years of life.

Cancers can occur just about anywhere. Virtually every cell type in the body can mutate so that it loses its ability to control replication. There are more than fifty types of cancer, and they can arise from any body organ.

Although most cancers are not preventable by any known means, most are survivable when detected early. Their curability depends upon their size and extent of spread at the time of discovery.

of American adults die of cancer

Most cancers arise by chance.

The underlying causes of cancer in American adults. Most are biological errors not due to our life choices.

Inherited genetic Abnormalities

8%

Exposures and lifestyle choices

15%

Random

77%

In fact, about three-fourths of cancers in American adults are random and are not related to our inherited genes or our lifestyle choices. They happen because of genetic mistakes made during our lifetime as our cells replicate. That process requires copying of our genetic material, a process that occasionally produces mistakes. Those errors accumulate as cells divide serially. Collect the wrong set of six or eight key mistakes in the same cell and a cancer is born.

The remaining quarter of cancers do have a cause, like smoking, asbestos exposure, workplace carcinogens and radiation. And some are due primarily to an inherited gene abnormality.

The Modern Physical makes an extraordinary effort to detect cancers at an early stage, when removal or other therapy is usually curative.

Cancer surveillance efforts are frequent - the transition from curable to non-curable usually occurs over a period of months. Our efforts are comprehensive and high-tech. We employ the most sophisticated imaging tests to periodically scan almost the entire body for evidence of cancer. And we apply many sensitive blood marker tests for cancer.

We don’t know exactly where or when a cancer will arise, where that first rogue cell will appear. But the more we know about you, the better we can predict a cancer occurrence. Your medical state, your family’s medical history, and your personal genetic profile all help to anticipate cancer. And, while casting a broad net, these factors help to focus and prioritize the search.

The Modern Physical difference is that we want to find every cancer while it’s still curable.

A standard physical typically screens for only a few cancers: breast, prostate, colon and cervix. Those cancers account for less than half of the total. And often the best tests are not employed. As a result, nearly three in four cancers routinely slip by screening, to be found later, when a cure is no longer possible.

The Modern Physical, on the other hand, incorporates an intensive early detection plan into each patient's health optimization program. If a higher than average risk of cancer is predicted from genetic and lifestyle evaluations, these efforts will be even more intensive. Our programs provide unsurpassed prevention and early detection strategies for cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, ovary, colon and rectum, pancreas, kidney, uterus and cervix, liver, thyroid, skin, lymph system, bladder and others.

Here’s how we search for cancer

Primary brain cancer is a relatively uncommon but usually lethal disease. MRI brain imaging readily detects cancer, although early detection does not always result in cure. It does not involve radiation exposure. When brain cancer surveillance is undertaken, the Modern Physical typically performs MRI annually.

Several types of thyroid cancer lead to growths within the gland that, if not destroyed, eventually spread to other neck organs and to bone. Thyroid cancer is slow growing, allowing an excellent opportunity for diagnosis and cure. The thyroid gland is readily inspected without radiation by ultrasound, and the Modern Physical inspects every 1-2 years.

Breast cancer is very common, affecting more than 1 in 8 women. Inherited genetic abnormalities can greatly increase risk. Modern Physical surveillance starts at age 40 and includes 3D-mammography, often coupled with ultrasound or MRI imaging. Based on family and ethnic history, many women choose to undergo genetic testing to further assess risk.

Lung cancer, the number one cancer killer in America, occurs in smokers and non-smokers. Cancers in non-smokers tend to be located near the periphery of the lungs, more amenable to surgical cure if caught early. Minimum-radiation-dose CT scanning readily detects lung cancer, and is employed by the Modern Physical at a frequency adjusted for risk. Frequent blood-borne cancer marker measurements augment surveillance.

Cancer of the esophagus requires early detection for cure. Spread to adjacent organs occurs early, making removal or destruction difficult. Smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, and stomach acid reflux increase the likelihood of esophageal cancer. For individuals at higher risk, the Modern Physical includes periodic inspection by endoscopy (often at the time of colonoscopy). Precancerous cells in the esophagus lead to aggressive acid suppression and frequent surveillance.

Stomach cancer tends to occur in older adults. It is more likely in individuals with inherited genetic errors, but the most common risk factor is infection with the stomach bacterium Helicobacter pylori. H. pylori can cause hyperacidity and ulcers, but is most often silent. More than 20% of Americans are infected with this organism, which is easy to detect and eradicate. The Modern Physical uses regular blood testing to detect infection with H. pylori.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in America, and is almost completely preventable. Some genetic syndromes increase the likelihood of colon cancer, but the vast majority of colon cancers occur in normal individuals. Colon inspection, by colonoscopy or imaging, effectively identifies precancerous lesions that can be removed. Current trends call for colon inspection at ten year intervals, conceding about 10% of cancers that occur in that window. The Modern Physical approach is inspection at five year intervals for those at average risk.

Primary liver cancer is one of the commonest cancers worldwide, but is infrequent in Americans unless they have a particular risk factor: liver infection, inflammation, or alcohol abuse. The Modern Physical inspects the liver at regular intervals, using non-radiation ultrasound imaging, and monitors blood cancer markers specific for cancers of the liver.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in America. It is almost always rapidly fatal unless caught early, because the first symptoms result from invasion of adjacent critical organs. The Modern Physical makes a very aggressive attempt to detect pancreatic cancer while curable, using a combination of frequent ultrasound imaging of the pancreas and specific pancreatic cancer blood marker monitoring.

Cancers of the blood and immune systems, including lymphoma, leukemia and myeloma, are quite common and can become apparent at multiple sites in the body. The Modern Physical uses sophisticated blood testing and body imaging to find cancers of these organs, including spleen, lymph nodes and bone marrow.

Kidney cancer, the fifth leading cause of cancer death in America, is typically incurable once symptoms occur. All are at risk for kidney cancer, which occurs more often in smokers. Fortunately, kidney cancer is easy to spot when small, and is almost often cured at that stage by surgical removal from the kidney. The kidneys are quite easy to inspect without using radiation. The Modern Physical utilizes ultrasound imaging on a regular basis to detect kidney lesions of significance.

Cancers of the gallbladder are uncommon but are usually lethal because they are located near critical structures. The Modern Physical keeps an eye on the gallbladder by regular ultrasound imaging and by measuring blood components that indicate a gallbladder abnormality.

Bladder cancer is frequent. It occurs more commonly in smokers and in those exposed to solvents and other chemicals. In its early stages, bladder cancer can be cured by removing the cancer, leaving the bladder intact. Once it has spread, though, bladder cancer is very difficult to control. The Modern Physical provides surveillance by imaging the bladder without radiation using ultrasonography, and also by detection of abnormal urine components.

Pelvic cancer, including cancers of the ovaries and uterus, are quite frequent. Ovarian cancer notoriously grows to a significant size before detection, and is often incurable when found. By using a combination of ultrasound imaging and blood cancer marker analysis, the Modern Physical aggressively seeks out ovarian cancer at its earliest stages. Likewise, cancers of the uterus are identified noninvasively by ultrasound, in combination with standard cytologic evaluation and detection of human papillomavirus infection.

Most cases of testicular cancer occur in men under the age of 50. Testicular cancer is often detected by self-examination, and is usually cured when found early. The Modern Physical augments physical examination, where appropriate, with non-radiation ultrasound imaging of the testes and the measurement of testicular cancer-related blood markers.

About 80% of men develop prostate cancer though many, particularly later in life, require no intervention. Prostate cancer can be very aggressive, as is common when it occurs before age 60. Those cancers spread locally and to bone, providing a limited window of opportunity for detection while curable. Later-life prostate cancer is typically slower growing and is more amenable to therapy. The Modern Physical employs a three-pronged detection strategy for prostate cancer, including manual prostate examination, prostate imaging without radiation using ultrasonography, and measurement of prostate cancer blood markers, including prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Measurements are made frequently, establishing a baseline from which deviations of significance are readily recognized.

The past decade has seen remarkable advances in cancer treatment, making early detection even more important.

How The Modern Physical Works in Detail

Explore the intricacies of the Modern Physical’s detection and prediction methods in the links below.