Cancer screening is the process in which a primary care physician or a specialty physician is checking for cancer or checking for potential precursors to cancer in individuals who are at risk for it and do not have symptoms.
Why Screen for Cancer?
Screening for cancer does not always mean your doctor believes you have cancer, but that you may be at risk for it. Cancer screening is important as it helps identify abnormalities that may develop into cancer or are cancer. This allows for early treatment or monitoring as it is more difficult to treat and cure cancer once it reaches the later stages of development. Cancer screening can and has saved lives. There are various organizations and guidelines as to types of cancer screening to help determine when it is best to be screened.
The Different Types of Cancer Screening
Screening for cancer involves a myriad of tests that help determine if further testing is needed if there is concern for cancer. Screening does not mean you necessarily have cancer but that there is cause for concern or potentially that you are at risk due to age.
Here are some cancer screens:
- Laboratory tests: blood draws or urine tests can help identify anomalies such as varying blood counts from a normal range for specific types of cancer in the blood.
- Imaging: imaging such as CT scans, PET scans, or MRIs can help identify what cannot be seen on a surface level with a physical exam. This allows for looking at the skeletal structure and organs of the body without being invasive like a biopsy is.
- Biopsies: a biopsy is normally the way in which to identify specific types of cancer and to diagnose cancer. It is an invasive procedure that allows a physician to gain sampling from the area of concern to identify at the cellular level any abnormalities.
How do I Know if I am at Risk?
Not everyone is at risk of developing cancer. Some who are at risk may never develop cancer. However, some who may not even be considered at risk could still develop cancer. There are some standard recommendations for cancer screening such as reoccurring PAP smears due to the prevalence of cervical cancer related to HPV. Another is recommended monthly breast or exams performed by each individual due to the concern of breast or cancer.
Your primary care physician can help you determine if you are at risk of a particular type of cancer. This could be related to genetics if you have a first-line relative with cancer. Another is age related as those who are over the age of 50 are recommended to have colonoscopies every 10 years to screen for colon cancer. Or if you smoked most of your life, imaging may be recommended to screen for lung cancer as you are at a higher risk of this.
If this information was helpful or you wish to know more about cancer screening, please visit our Care Medical Group webpage at www.caremg.com or call us at (360) 734-4300. We would love to meet with you and answer your questions or healthcare concerns.