Is a cancer test right for you?
For many people the thought of ever having cancer can be a terrible worry or a nagging concern. The NHS do offer screening tests for certain cancers but the limitations of funds and services mean that these tests are not available as often as we might like, or to all age groups.
We do know that if cancers are caught early then the chances of treatment and cure can be much greater. If you have any symptoms or signs that you are worried about then you should see your GP without delay.
On the occasions where cancers are small and not yet big enough to cause symptoms, they can show up on blood tests or stool samples. If they are detected at this early stage then this will mean that any treatment can be started sooner which may increase the long term outlook. If you have a positive cancer test, then your GP will be able to refer you for discussions about further tests and treatments.
A positive test does not necessarily mean you have cancer, and a negative tests does not necessarily mean you don't or never will. These tests are just a guide and while they can be reassuring they can also indicate a need for further investigations.
Some cancers are detected by measuring certain proteins in the blood, and these can be used to monitor treatment in people who have had that particular cancer, or to see if it might be coming back. Tumour marker tests are not necessarily diagnostic of cancer and their use as sceening tests is not established or even recommended; false positives can cause distress and anxiety and even invasive investigation. False negatives can also provide undue reassurance.