Definitives - Early Detection of Cancer
Screening is a public health approach with which we want to determine among the seemingly healthy population who has a higher risk of the disease we are screening for. This is done by identifying pre-stages or early forms of the disease at regular intervals with the help of reliable and relatively simple screening tests in certain age groups that are more at risk for this disease.
Slovenia is one of the few countries that has established all three cancer screening programs at the national level, recommended by the Council of Europe. Among them is the oldest ZORA Program for the Detection of Precancerous and Early Cancer Changes in the Cervix, which was introduced as a national program in 2003. All women in the age group between 20 and 64 years every three years. The DORA program for early detection of breast cancer was launched in 2008 and expanded to the whole country in 2018. In this screening program, women aged 50-69 are invited for two years to breast mammography screening. The Svit program is intended for the prevention and early detection of precancerous changes and cancer of the colon and rectum. It has been established in Slovenia since 2009 and includes men and women between the ages of 50 and 74. Every two years, an individual is invited to take a test for occult bleeding in the stool. It is important to know that none of the screening tests makes a definitive diagnosis, but only indicates a higher probability of the presence of the disease. If the screening test within the screening program is positive, the individual is invited for additional diagnostics, which either confirms or refutes the diagnosis of cancer. In case of confirmation of cancer, the individual is referred for further treatment.
The purpose of screening is to prevent the development of cancer by removing the precancerous change, or to detect the cancer at a very early stage, when less invasive treatment is needed, treatment success is higher and the patient's quality of life is better. The long-term goals of screening programs are to reduce the occurrence of a certain form of cancer or to reduce mortality from this cancer. The response of the invited persons is very important for the success of the screening, only if the screening is regularly attended by over 70% of the target population, we can expect success. Therefore, we continue to encourage all residents to respond to invitations received to participate in cancer screening programs.
In Slovenia, we are already recording the success of all three cancer screening programs. Attendance ranges from 68% to 74%, with cervical and colorectal cancer a reduction in the incidence of new cases can be observed, and the impact of screening programs on mortality reduction will only be observed in subsequent years. With joint efforts, we will definitely succeed!