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What Are the Different Methods of Early Cancer Detection?

By Jackie Myers
Updated May 17, 2024
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Early cancer detection can help to ensure successful treatment. Many types of cancer may be found before they cause symptoms, and several methods exist for discovering cancer before the disease is in its advanced stage. Cancer screenings, such as laboratory and imaging tests, help doctors diagnose the cancer early. It is also possible for people to check for certain cancers by themselves.

A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast that can be used to detect breast cancer in those who show no signs of the disease. Clinical studies indicate that using mammograms as a form of early cancer detection reduces the incidence of breast cancer deaths in women 40 to 70 years old. Experts recommend that women who are 40 years of age and older have a mammogram every one or two years. Women can also check for breast cancer themselves by checking for lumps in the breasts.

When doctors suspect that a person is at high risk for developing breast cancer, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help. This imaging test plays a vital role in early cancer detection, especially in people who have a family history of breast cancer. Thermography is also an early cancer detection method that is capable of revealing the cancer years before a mammography x-ray would reveal it. When combined with other types of early cancer detection methods, like mammography, up to 95% of early-stage cancers can be detected.

Computed tomography (CT) scans, can detect cancers throughout body. This early cancer detection test forms a series of x-ray views. A CT scan is made of x-ray views taken from various angles. All of the different angles make images that cross across the soft tissues and bones in the body. Unlike regular x-rays, CT produces more data for experts to analyze.

Doctors may complete routine laboratory testing as an early cancer detection method for patients. The laboratory screenings consist of urine and blood tests that can help to diagnose cancer. A urine cytology test involves viewing a urine sample through a microscope to find cancer cells from the kidneys or bladder. A complete blood count test measures the total number of blood cells from a sample of blood. This particular blood count test can reveal whether a person has blood cancer.

A hemmocult test can also help doctors to detect cancer in its earlier stages. Specifically used in detecting colorectal cancer, it tests for blood in the stool. If a patient receives a positive result from a hemmocult test, a colonoscopy will be performed to find tumors or polyps.

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