The purpose of cancer screening is to find the disease at an early stage, before symptoms appear, making the chances for successful treatment greater. Potential screening methods vary by disease but can include physical examinations, laboratory tests, medical imaging procedures and genetic testing.
While screenings can be helpful in diagnosing cancer early, patients should be cautious when seeking screenings to prevent over-diagnosis, or diagnosing a disease that will never cause symptoms.
Learn more about screening techniques for some common types of cancer below:
Screening is recommended for those with the highest risk of lung cancer, which can include patients who are current or former smokers with a history of at least one pack a day for 30 years.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force recently recommended a low-dose CT scan every year for people who are current smokers (or have quit in the last 15 years) aged 55 to 79 years old.
To learn more about lung cancer screening and guidelines, visit the American Lung Association.
The appropriate time for screening for prostate cancer is among the most widely debated preventive measures. Many prostate cancers will not cause symptoms, spread or shorten a man’s life when left untreated.
The American Cancer Society recommends men considering screening begin discussing the possibility with their doctors at age 50. There are two commonly used tests to screen for prostate cancer. Patients typically receive a digital rectal exam or a prostate specific antigen test. Only a doctor can determine the best method for each patient. For more information read the American Cancer Society’s Prostate Cancer Early Detection Guide.
No standardized screening exists for the detection of brain tumors. If your doctor suspects you may have a brain tumor, potential screening methods include a neurological exam or imaging tests. Those with a family history of brain tumors may want to discuss monitoring for the disease with their doctor.
Before undergoing any tests, it is important to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of cancer screening with a doctor.
This is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your health care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.