Cancer is defined as an out of control growth of abnormal cells. These malignant cells do not die, but continue to grow abnormally and uncontrolled. Unlike normal cells, malignant or cancerous cells may grow to invade other healthy tissues in the body. Diagnostic tools such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) scan, and computed tomography (CT) scan may be used as cancer screening tests. A mammogram, pap test, colonoscopy, and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test may also be used to screen for cancer with the hope of catching the disease in its earliest stages.
Diagnostic imaging tests may be used as cancer screening tests because they can detect and help diagnose abnormalities in tissues in the body. The tests can also track the progression of any disease that may already be present. An MRI test may be used to screen for cancer. Computer images of organs, nerves, muscles, and bones are produced by electromagnetic radio waves with this test. It can also show abnormalities through detailed images of soft tissues and organs.
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A PET scan is a medical imaging tool that may also be used as cancer screening test. The scan can show how well organs are functioning inside the body. Differences in metabolic and chemical activity may also be shown on a PET scan. It can commonly diagnose problems such as central nervous system problems, brain disorders, and cancer. Additionally, the effectiveness of medical treatments may be discovered through this imaging device.
An initial diagnosis of cancer may be suspected after undergoing a CT scan. This test may be beneficial in screening for cancer by providing cross-sectional pictures of the body using x-ray technology and computers. All major parts of the body can be evaluated for abnormalities with this test. It may be used to diagnose cancer as well as other health concerns such as heart disease, internal bleeding, and blood clots. Contrast dye may be used to provide better imaging and clearly show inner structures such as organs, bones, glands, and lymph nodes.
Breast cancer screening may be done using a mammogram. This diagnostic imaging tool produces black and white x-rays of the breast. Abnormalities in breast tissue may be seen, and it can detect breast cancer in the earliest stages, as well as other breast tissue irregularities.
The pap test, also known as a pap smear, may be used as a cervical cancer screening device. The test is used to detect abnormal cell changes in the cervix. It may detect cancerous as well as precancerous cells. A pap test may be useful in finding abnormal cells before they turn into cancer.
Abnormalities in the colon or large intestine and the rectum may be examined using a colonoscopy. This test is generally performed to screen for colon cancer. Biopsies may be taken of tissues appearing abnormal or otherwise questionable. The test is performed using a flexible tube with a camera on the tip, called a colonoscope, which is inserted into the rectum, providing a clear view of the entire colon.
The PSA test may be used to screen for prostate cancer. The purpose of the test is to evaluate the amount of prostate-specific antigens in the blood stream. Small amounts of these antigens may ordinarily appear in the blood. This test may indicate an abnormal occurrence of the antigens, which could mean a problem with the prostate.
Cancer prevention is usually the primary reason for undergoing any cancer screening test. Anyone who has symptoms of cancer or a family histories of the disease may have such tests done. A doctor can decide which patients may benefit most from the different screening tests in an effort to prevent the occurrence of cancer or detect it in the very early stages.