Screening is looking for cancer before a person has any symptoms. In many cases, screening tests can identify cancer at an early stage when it is more treatable. If the cancer is not identified until symptoms develop it may have begun to spread throughout the body and become harder to treat.
There are many types of screening tests and everyone is recommended to have some type of cancer screening depending on many factors including age and sex or personal and family history factors. It is important to remember that if your physician recommends a screening test it does not necessarily mean he or she thinks you have cancer.
A few examples of screening tests include the following:
- Physical exam and history: An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient's health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
- Laboratory tests: Medical procedures that test samples of tissue, blood, urine, or other substances in the body.
- Imaging procedures: Procedures that make pictures of areas inside the body.
- Genetic tests: Tests that look for certain gene mutations (changes) that are linked to some types of cancer.
There are risks to having a screening test. It is important to talk with your physician about the risks and benefits of a particular screening test and if it is appropriate for you.