When 1,000 apparently healthy Israelis of a median age of 48 were screened at Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center for 11 of the most common cancers, 2.4 percent (24) were diagnosed at an early stage with malignancies and treated successfully, according to an article just published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine.

The article came out on the advent of World Cancer Day, which will be marked around the globe on Monday.

Men and women who follow a healthful lifestyle and feel no unusual pain may be carrying a malignant tumor that, unless treated early, can spread to other organs in the body, said the researchers who conducted the screening. The most common cancers occur in the colon/rectum, lungs, breasts, prostate, testicles, oral cavity, thyroid gland, skin, uterus, cervix and ovaries.

The healthy individuals were screened at Sourasky between 2006 and 2010 by the team, which was led by Dr. Nadir Arber, head of Sourasky’s Center for Cancer Prevention. The research project aimed at mapping all participant results and determining the group’s risk factors. Since the end of the study, the 24 participants diagnosed with cancer have been followed up on in order to ensure that they were indeed cured at an early stage.

Although most of those screened were men, 10 of the participants were found to have breast cancer, with seven suffering from cancer of the digestive system, three from skin cancer and the remainder from prostate cancer. Surprisingly, although 45% of those screened either smoked previously or at the time of the screening, no lung cancer was diagnosed.

Over 7% were found to have precancerous growths, most in the digestive system, with the remainder in the uterus, cervix, skin and mouth. All tumors were fully removed at an early stage.

People aged over 50 were at a higher risk of cancer, as were those who were overweight and/or drank excessive alcohol – but in none of the cases did a family history of cancer result in malignancies.

“The good news is that early detection and suitable treatments can prevent the diseases from breaking out and spreading, and thus life can be saved,” Arber said.

Sourasky says its center is a “one-stop shop” for the early detection of malignancies, but the service is not free; it costs NIS 1,450 per person and is not covered in the basket of health services or supplementary health insurance – even though early diagnosis can save the health funds much money, not to mention lives.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has approved Maccabi Health Fund’s request to offer a new supplementary health insurance policy called Maccabi Sheli (My Maccabi). It will cost NIS 18.5 a month for members up to the age of 18, and about NIS 44 monthly for adults.

The new scheme offers a personal trainer, eyeglasses and contact lenses (once every three years), preservative dental care in a Maccabident dental fund clinic for all ages at NIS 20 per treatment, various products and services for pregnant women, and testing for attention deficit disorder.

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