Types of Prevention
Primary cancer prevention encompasses a healthy lifestyle and includes all measures to avoid carcinogen exposure and promote health. The focus of primary prevention is to prevent a cancer from ever developing or to delay the development of a malignancy. For individuals with a particularly high risk of a cancer (such as those with a known genetic predisposition), primary prevention may include the use of chemopreventive agents or prophylactic surgery to prevent or significantly reduce the risk of developing a malignancy.
Secondary prevention refers to the early detection and treatment of subclinical, asymptomatic, or early disease in individuals without obvious signs or symptoms of cancer. Secondary cancer prevention includes identifying people who are at risk for developing malignancy and implementing appropriate screening recommendations based on the risk assessment. Screening may include physical examinations, self-examinations, radiologic procedures, laboratory tests, or other examinations. Examples of secondary cancer prevention include the use of the Pap smear to detect cervical cancer, mammography to detect a nonpalpable breast cancer, or colonoscopy to detect and remove a polyp or early colon cancer. Screening tests seek to decrease the morbidity and mortality associated with cancer. Following a positive screening test, further diagnostic testing is required to determine if a malignancy exists.
Tertiary cancer prevention includes monitoring for and preventing recurrence of the originally diagnosed cancer and screening for second primary cancers and long-term effects of treatment in cancer survivors. The focus of this form of prevention is aimed at detecting complications and second cancers in long-term survivors when treatment is most likely to be effective and ultimately improve their quality of life.
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