Why we don't do cancer tests

Understand why we don't do cancer tests here at Medichecks.

There are very few tests that can be used to screen for cancer, so in most cases we recommend that you discuss your concerns and any symptoms that you are experiencing with your doctor.

The tests needed to detect cancer are usually only available via a hospital, and will involve either a scan or procedure to look for cancer, and possibly a biopsy to confirm whether cancer is present. These tests need a doctor to assess whether the right symptoms and signs are present before they can be performed. Blood tests do not generally offer enough accuracy to suggest whether cancer may be present, and waiting for results would potentially delay people from seeing their doctor to discuss their symptoms, which would delay the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. If you are experiencing any symptoms that are making you concerned about the possibility of cancer then you should make an appointment with your GP to discuss them.

What about tumour marker blood tests?

You may have read about tumour marker blood tests, and are wondering whether these can be used to detect cancer. The majority of these tests are only used for monitoring progress in people who have already been diagnosed. All tumour marker tests have a risk of returning a normal result in people who have an underlying cancer (a false negative result). They are not recommended for use in screening people for cancer as there is a risk of falsely reassuring people who unknowingly have cancer.

The other problem which affects tumour marker tests is the risk of receiving a false positive result, i.e. a result which suggests cancer in someone who is perfectly healthy. This can cause a great deal of emotional distress and anxiety, and can lead to unnecessary investigations. PSA is the only tumour marker test which is used in screening for cancer, you can read more about the other national cancer screening programs below.

PSA test

A PSA test can help you and your doctors decide whether to have other tests for prostate cancer. Men between the age of 50 and 74 can request prostate testing from their GP, afro-caribbean men and those with a family history of prostate cancer can request a test from the age of 45. Medichecks offer PSA testing which you can read about here. You can find out more about NHS PSA testing below:

NHS PSA testing

Bowel screening

Bowel screening helps cancer to be spotted early, which is when treatment is most likely to be successful. The NHS offers bowel screening every two years to people between the ages of 60 and 74 (50 to 74 in Scotland). The NHS test looks for blood in the stool, and arranges a follow up assessment for people with positive results. If you would like to find out more about the NHS bowel cancer screening program in your area visit the links below:

England Northern Ireland Scotland Wales

We offer the same bowel cancer test as is used in the NHS, if you are within the screening age group, free of symptoms and would like to arrange this privately then we can provide this for you.

If you are experiencing symptoms such as weight loss, change in bowel habit or visible blood in the stool then we recommend seeing your GP about this, rather than investigating yourself.

Breast screening

Breast screening can help detect cancer so it can be treated as soon as possible. A mammogram is offered every three years to women between the age of 50 and 70. This uses x-rays to detect abnormalities within the breast which may need further investigation. You can find out more about the breast cancer screening program below:

England Northern Ireland Scotland Wales

Cervical screening and CIN

Cervical screening can help in the prevention and detection of cervical cancer. Cervical screening is offered to women between the ages of 25 and 64. You can find out more about the cervical screening program below:

England Northern Ireland Scotland Wales