What are the types of screening tests?

There are different methods to screen cancers, some of which include:

  • Person’s family and medical history; physical examination: A person’s personal history including habits like smoking tobacco, alcohol consumption, etc and family history of the presence of any type of cancer is taken. This is followed by a physical examination of the body for general signs of health and the presence of any abnormalities like lumps.
  • Laboratory tests: Investigations in which tests are performed on samples of body tissue, blood, urine, or other fluids of the body.
  • Imaging tests: Investigations like X-ray, MRI, etc of areas inside the body to identify any abnormalities.
  • Genetic tests: Medical tests to identify the presence of any mutations/abnormal genes that may be linked to some types of cancer.

Are there any risks of screening tests?

While screening tests are helpful in many cases, it should be kept in mind that not all screening tests are helpful, and many of them have risks. Thus, it is strongly recommended that a person should consult his/her oncologist before undertaking any screening test. Some of these risks include:

Some screening tests may have side effects:

Some screening procedures may be invasive in nature and may cause bleeding or other problems. For example, screening for colon cancer using procedures like sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy may cause tears in the colon’s lining.

It is possible to have false-positive results:

Sometimes, the screening tests may report abnormal positive even if there is no cancer. As a result, the person may become anxious and may have to undergo more tests and procedures, which have their own risks.

It is possible to have False-negative results:

Sometimes, the result of a screening test may appear to be negative in the presence of cancer. As a result, there may be a delay in seeking medical advice even in the presence of symptoms.

Early detection may not guarantee the prevention or help the person live longer

There may not be any symptoms in certain types of cancers or they may not be life-threatening. On the other hand, some cancers may be very aggressive even if identified early. As a result, treating cancer doesn’t always mean that a person would live longer in the situation if no treatment were given.