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Screening for Cancer

Screening for Cancer

Screening for cancer is essentially for identifying the presence of a cancer before an individual has any symptoms relating to the cancer itself.

Screening tests can help find cancer at an early stage, before symptoms appear. When abnormal tissue or cancer is found early, it may be easier to treat or cure the cancer. By the time symptoms appear, the cancer may have grown and spread. This can make the cancer harder to treat or cure.

It is important to remember that when your doctor suggests a screening test, it does not always mean he or she thinks you have cancer. Screening tests are done when you have no cancer symptoms.

There are various kinds of cancer screening tests.

Cancer screening tests include the following:

  • Physical exam and history: An examination 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 into consideration.
  • Imaging procedures: these include MRI or CT scans with specialized software that are able to detect nodes and other abnormalities that may indicate the presence of cancer
  • Laboratory tests: Medical procedures that test samples of tissue, blood, urine, or other substances in the body, including tumor markers, and comparing against the normal range of such indicators
  • Genetic tests: Tests that look for certain gene mutations (changes) that are linked to some types of cancer.

Risks and Problems associated with screening tests.

Not all screening tests are helpful and most carry some degree of risks. It is important to know the risks of the test and whether it is appropriate, taking into account the patients age, sex, lifestyle and family history. Some screening procedures can cause bleeding or other problems, especially if the tests are invasive. However, it is best to seek advice from the physician before deciding to undertake the more aggressive types of screenings, such as screening for colon cancer with sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.

False Positive and False Negative test results.

Screening test results may appear to be abnormal even though there is no cancer. A false-positive test result (one that shows there is cancer when there really isn't) can cause anxiety and is usually followed by more tests and procedures, to confirm the initial test results. The opposite may also happen, when screening test results may appear to be normal even though there is cancer. A person who receives a false-negative test result (one that shows there is no cancer when there really is) may delay seeking medical care even if there are symptoms.

The objective of having cancer screening

A screening test that works the way it should and is helpful does the following:

  • Finds cancer before symptoms appear.
  • Screens for a cancer that is easier to treat and cure when found early.
  • Has few false-negative test results and false-positive test results.
  • Decreases the chance of dying from cancer, if detected and treated early.

Who should undergo Cancer Screening Tests?

Certain screening tests are suggested only for people, who may have a high risk for certain cancers.

Anything that increases the chance of cancer is called a cancer risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; conversely not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer.

Some screening tests are used only for people who have known risk factors for certain types of cancer. People known to have a higher risk of cancer than others include those who:

  • Have had cancer in the past; or
  • Have two or more first-degree relatives (a parent, brother, or sister) who have had cancer; or
  • Have certain gene mutations (changes) that have been linked to cancer.

People who have a high risk of cancer may need to be screened more often or at an earlier age than other people.

Cancer Screening Tests that are accepted as standard tests

Evidence about how safe, accurate, and useful cancer screening tests are comes from clinical trials (research studies with people) and other kinds of research studies. When enough evidence has been collected to show that a screening test is safe, accurate, and useful, it becomes a standard test.

Examples of cancer screening tests that are now considered as standard tests include:

  • Pap tests (Pap smears) for cervical cancer
  • Colonoscopy for colorectal cancer
  • Mammograms for breast cancer

Cancer Screening in Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur

Various types of cancer screening tests are offered in Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur, with a majority of the common tests offered as part of the Executive Screening Programs at the Pantai Health Screening Centre. Various tumor markers are also offered as part of or as additional tag on test for the blood examinations carried out during screening.

To determine the type of screening test and the frequency of undergoing these tests, it is recommended that an individual consults their family physician or attending doctor. Alternately, you may contact the Pantai Health Screening Centre at 03-2296 0942 or email at esp@pantai.com.my.