What is cancer screening?
The goal of cancer screening is to detect cancer before symptoms begin to take hold. Often, when abnormal tissue or cancer is found before symptoms appear, early intervention can eliminate the cancer entirely.
There are several types of screening, including:
- Laboratory tests: Blood, urine and tissue are tested for signs of cancer.
- Physical exam: Unusual lumps or abnormalities can be seen upon physical examination. Your doctors review your medical history for anything that puts you at higher risk.
- Imaging procedures: This allows your doctor to take a look inside your body.
- Genetic counseling: Your doctors have extensive experience in genetic tests that detect gene mutations, which can be connected to some types of cancer.
What does cancer screening detect?
There are many cancer screening tests that are successful in detecting cancer before it takes hold. For example, the following tests for these cancers are common:
- Breast cancer: A physical exam detects lumps and women between 50-74 are advised to get mammograms every two years.
- Cervical cancer: Pap tests can detect the presence of abnormal cells on the cervix, which may lead to cancer.
- Colon cancer: Regular screening begins when you reach 50 and continues until age 75. This exam finds precancerous polyps, which are removed before they turn more serious.
- Lung cancer: If you have a history of smoking, annual screening of your lungs using low-dose computed tomography begins between 55-80.
- Prostate cancer: This screening is called a prostate specific antigen test (PSA).
- Skin cancer: A physical examination of irregular moles or skin blemishes.
Your doctor guides you toward the right screening tests based on your medical history, age, and sex.
What are the risks of cancer screening?
There are generally few risks in most cancer screening. Typically, complaints encompass:
- False/positive results in PSA tests for prostate cancer
- Slight damage to the colon during a colonoscopy
- Inconclusive or incorrect results
Your doctor goes over every screening procedure beforehand to ensure that you understand the process, the benefits, and the risks, if any.