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Common Health Tests (cont.)

Cancer Screening

A very important role for screening is in detecting cancer at an early stage. Although screening does not prevent cancer, it may diagnose the condition when it is in the most treatable form. It is important to note that this is not always the case though.

  • A good example of this is lung cancer. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. It may seem sensible that a screening chest X-ray should be used to diagnose lung cancer. In general, though, a simple screening chest X-ray does not diagnose the condition early enough to have any significant impact on survival.

Which cancers can be detected using common health tests? Several types of cancer can be screened for. These include cancers of the breast, cervix, testicles, colon and rectum, and skin. There does seem to be a definite impact on survival when cancer is detected early and treated appropriately.

  • Some other cancers can be screened for, but it is not clear that identification results in an improvement in the long-term survival.
  • The American Cancer Society offers a complete discussion of cancer screening and detection on its web site (http://www.cancer.org/).
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