Cancer screening is a way to find certain kinds of cancer before it is known that a person has it or to check to see if someone has it. Cancer screening is a good tool for doctors, and even patients themselves, to check for signs or symptoms of cancer so that it can be caught in the earliest possible stages. Some types of cancer screening is done with genetic tests, while others need no gear (i.e. a woman can use her hand and fingers to check for possible breast lumps with no need for any equipment.)
Why is Cancer Screening Important?
Cancer screening is important because it helps to find the cancer in very early stages, which make it easier to treat and more likely the person can recover and be treated successfully. If one waits until they have full symptoms that are detectable without cancer screening tests, then it is likely the cancer will be much further along and harder to treat successfully.
There are many different types of cancer screening tests. These include:
- Physical exam and medical history – doctors do a general body exam, collect health habit info and ask about family history of any medical issues
- Lab tests – Tests like blood, urine, tissue or other bodily tests
- Imaging tests – tests like x-ray, ultrasound, or MRI that look inside the body
- Genetic tests – tests that look for genetic mutations or defects
Possible Risks of Cancer Screening
Some cancer screening tests may actually have risks involved, so it is best to be sure that the tests are actually needed by the patient and will be of more value than not giving the test. For example, some forms of colon testing such as a sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy could cause bleeding or tears inside of the colon under some circumstances. However, without one, it is not very possible to detect early stages of colon cancer.
There is also the chance that cancer screening can show a false positive result from the tests. This can unnecessarily frighten someone and it will most likely cause the need for further tests to confirm or deny if the person actually has cancer or not. Or, the opposite can occur and there could be a false-negative test result. This is worse, as the person thinks they are safe and cancer free when in reality they have cancer and it may get worse since no one knows it is there and can’t treat it.
However, in most cases cancer screening is a good thing and does help people to get treated earlier if they have a cancer since it detects it at the earliest stages. Normally if a cancer screening test is positive, your doctor will do further tests to confirm it before instituting any cancer treatments.
Talk to your doctor if you think that you need to undergo any form of cancer screening. They can recommend the ones that are appropriate for your age, gender and genetic makeup.