Screening for cancer?
 
There are different types of cancer screening tests for men and women, and certain cancers can be screened for better than others.

THERE are several hospitals now advertising that they are offering cancer screening tests. I’m wondering if it is worth my while to get a check-up. What are cancer screening tests?


Cancer screening tests are tests that are done to try and detect cancer in people who have no symptoms or signs of cancer. In short, you are a healthy individual going for a medical check-up, and one of the plethora of tests that you may request for is cancer screening.

There are different types of cancer screening tests for men as opposed to women. Certain cancers can be screened for better than others.

Some tests are also more effective in detecting cancer than others. But it’s very important to detect cancer early, because at the early stages, some cancers can be cured. Or at least, you’ll have a far better chance of survival rather than if you detect it late.

What types of cancer screening tests are there? Do they all require taking my blood?

Cancer screening tests can be divided into the following:
  • History taking – Here, the doctor asks you for family history of cancer or environmental factors which have been known to cause cancer, such as working in an asbestos-heavy environment. Breast cancer has a known genetic correlation, and it runs in families.
  • Physical examination – The doctor then proceeds to examine you for signs of possible disease, such as a breast lump, lumps in other places, skin lesions or anything that seems out of the ordinary. A rectal examination may be done for men to look for enlargement of the prostate gland.
  • Laboratory tests – Your blood, urine and maybe even tissue samples are then taken. Blood tests may include specific cancer markers. If you have a breast lump, it is advisable that you go for further investigations like a breast ultrasound and mammogram, and far more importantly, get the lump biopsied.
  • Imaging tests – These include x-rays, ultrasounds, mammograms, CT scans, MRI and other such similar tests.
  • Procedures – Some cancers are best detected by more invasive tests, such as a colonoscopy (procedure that allows the doctor to send a scope up your colon) to detect suspicious polyps or masses in your colon, which may or may not be cancer.
  • Genetic tests – These look for certain gene mutations which are linked to certain types of cancer.
What types of cancer screening are there for women? I have heard of the mammogram.

Breast self-examination is actually the commonest. By practising self-examination, you can detect warning lumps which you can act upon by going to see the doctor.

Mammograms are recommended for breast cancer screening, especially in women aged 40 to 70. By doing regular mammograms, studies have shown that this can decrease death related to breast cancer for women.
A mammogram is basically an x-ray of the breast. It is not a foolproof way of detecting lumps and such, especially in women below 50, because the breast tissue tends to be very dense. If a lump is detected, a mammogram is usually followed up with a breast ultrasound.

A Pap smear is a screening test for cervical cancer. It can also detect other cervical conditions, such as cervical dysplasia, which occurs more often in women aged between 20 and 30. A lot of these conditions may be precursors to cervical cancer, and so it is worth having a yearly Pap test if you are sexually active.
What types of cancer screening are there for women? I have heard of the mammogram.

Breast self-examination is actually the commonest. By practising self-examination, you can detect warning lumps which you can act upon by going to see the doctor.

Mammograms are recommended for breast cancer screening, especially in women aged 40 to 70. By doing regular mammograms, studies have shown that this can decrease death related to breast cancer for women.
A mammogram is basically an x-ray of the breast. It is not a foolproof way of detecting lumps and such, especially in women below 50, because the breast tissue tends to be very dense. If a lump is detected, a mammogram is usually followed up with a breast ultrasound.

A Pap smear is a screening test for cervical cancer. It can also detect other cervical conditions, such as cervical dysplasia, which occurs more often in womeWhat about types of cancer screening for men?
A very common test is the PSA or Prostate Specific Antigen, which is not deemed to be that accurate as a cancer screening test.

The Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) is a protein that is produced by the cells of the prostate gland. The PSA test is a blood test that measures this level in your blood.
The PSA is often elevated in men with prostate cancer. And until recently, it was a test that was recommended for all men aged 50 and beyond. However, more recently, it has been shown that some men with low PSA levels have prostate cancer, and some men with high PSA levels do not have prostate cancer.
Additionally, your PSA levels can fluctuate with factors such as prostatitis, urinary tract infection and prostate surgery. Apparently, only about 25% of the men who went for prostate biopsy after an elevated PSA turned out to have prostate cancer.
Is there any type of lung cancer screening?

A routine chest x-ray may detect a lesion or a shadow which can be further investigated. But this has not been shown to have decreased the death rate from lung cancer.

However, low dose spiral CT scans have been shown to decrease the death rate from lung cancer in heavy smokers if done routinely.

There is also the squamous cell carcinoma antigen, which can appear in many squamous types of cancers. It is better used as a monitoring factor in people who already have been diagnosed with squamous lung cancer.