Given that cancer symptoms are often non-specific and vary according to the location and extent of the tumour, there are no medical tests to detect cancer in general, but rather specific tests for different types of cancer.
An early diagnosis is crucial to improve the chances of healing.
If your physician suspects that you might have cancer, s/he will request a series of tests based on your symptoms in order to reach an early diagnosis as soon as possible, as this is essential to increase your chances of healing.
There are certain tests and protocols used for the screening of some high-prevalence tumours, including:
- • Regular mammograms for breast cancer screening as of the age of 45.
- • Stool analyses and/or a colonoscopy if colorectal cancer is suspected.
- • Another routine test for cancer prevention is the Pap smear performed for cervical cancer screening during gynaecological consultations.
- • The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test for the screening of prostate cancer.
- • For the early diagnosis of lung cancer, a low-dose CT scan is currently being used in healthy people over the age of 55 years, smokers over the age of 30 years, or ex-smokers since less than 15 years ago , although there is no unanimous agreement among the scientific community about the risk/benefit balance of its use.
Cancer screening tests are almost as varied as the types of cancer that exist. The most important factor to bear in mind is that you should consult with a specialist if you experience any symptoms in order to determine their cause and thus undergo early screening, which is crucial for a good prognosis of the disease.
Is Cancer Hereditary?
In most cases, cancer is the result of a combination of external and endogenous factors (inherent to the patient him/herself) that come together to result in a sufficiently significant alteration in a normal cell that causes it to divide uncontrollably and cause what we know as cancer.
The reality is that most cases of diagnosed cancer (about 70-80%) are considered to have originated sporadically. Approximately 15-20% of tumours have some kind of familial aggregation, and only 5-10% of cases are linked to a genetic alteration that can be transmitted from parents to children and contribute, to a greater or lesser extent, to the onset of a cancer.
In any case, having a mutation detected in a certain gene does not mean that a cancer will develop in all cases or immediately. However, this fact certainly implies that you have a greater predisposition to develop one or several cancers throughout your lifetime and that you should therefore consider having certain preventive diagnostic tests or therapeutic actions performed depending on the risk determined by each piece of information received.