Blood Tests for Cancer: A Lead to Early Diagnosis

Blood Tests for Cancer: A Lead to Early Diagnosis?

Blood Tests for Cancer: A Lead to Early Diagnosis

Medical professionals typically use a blood test to check the general health of a patient. With the growing trends of its potential to detect early signs of cancer, medical institutions and organizations are now conducting clinical trials to study the discovery further.

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How to Test for Cancer

Cancer is a disease caused by an abnormal growth of cells in an organ or tissue. Several tests used to diagnose cancer are:

  1. Radiology Test that uses images from inside the body to detect cancer cells
  2. Oncology Test that’s generally carried out through endoscopy and biopsy procedures that use physical instruments like a tube to locate cancer cells inside the body
  3. Cytology Test that examines a small amount of tissue from the patient for its cell and fluid properties

Five Prevailing Cancers in America

Data from 2020 shows that cancer is a leading cause of death around the world. However, studies have proven that about 30% to 50 % of these deaths can be prevented with early detection and management. Fortunately, a blood test for cancer is now at the center of research to assess its use in diagnosing cancer cells at early stages. Here are the leading cancers in the US:

Skin Cancer

When an abnormal cell develops in the epidermis, it multiplies and affects the skin’s dermis, leading to cancer. It has three types:

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma – The basal cell is located in the lowermost layer of the skin. This skin cancer grows slowly, which makes it almost impossible to spread. But once a patient develops basal cell cancers, they have an increased risk of developing a new one either in the exact location or elsewhere within five years after the first diagnosis.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma – Like basal cell carcinoma, this type grows gradually and is rare to spread. It grows in the skin constantly exposed to the sun, such as the hands, face, and neck.
  •  Melanoma – It’s the most serious of the three skin cancers. It forms in the skin cells that produce melanin, a natural pigment protecting it from radiation. When melanoma develops, it destroys the melanin and deteriorates the skin’s protection.

In the US, about one million people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year. About 85% of individuals develop cancer before they turn 18, so early detection is necessary.

Prostate Cancer

A prostate is a gland in biological men that produces liquid for semen. When cells grow abnormally in the prostate, they may develop cancer. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US, with approximately one out of six men diagnosed.

Common signs and symptoms of prostate cancer:

  • Interrupted urine flow
  • Presence of blood in the urine
  • Frequent urination at night
  • Enlarged prostate causing pain and discomfort
  • Erectile dysfunction

Breast Cancer

When cells grow out of control in any part of the breast, cancer develops. The cancer cells can invade the surrounding parts of the breast through lymph and blood vessels. There are two kinds of breast cancer:

  • Invasive Ductal Carcinoma –  It’s breast cancer that forced its way out of the milk duct, invading the breast tissues.
  • Invasive Lobular Carcinoma – This is when cancer cells start growing in the milk-producing glands of the breast. It can spread throughout the lymph nodes and other parts of the body.

Common symptoms and signs of breast cancer:

  • Breast swelling
  • Presence of lump in any part of the breast or underarm
  • Pain in the nipple or any area of the breast
  • Blood discharge
  • Change in size and shape of the breast

Lung Cancer

It’s caused by the abnormal growth of cells in the lungs. It can start in any part of the lungs and compromise the respiratory system. All stages of lung cancer have a 16% survival rate in five years. In the US, the most common risk factor is cigarette smoking.

Common signs and symptoms of lung cancer:

  • Coughing for up to 2-3 weeks
  • Chest infections
  • Presence of blood when coughing
  • Pain and discomfort when coughing
  • Weight loss
  • Tiredness and lack of energy

Kidney Cancer

It may develop when a tumor is formed in the kidneys due to the uncontrolled growth of cells. Older people between the ages of 65 and 74 are most likely to develop this cancer. Tobacco, obesity, and hypertension are among the top factors to cause kidney cancer.

Below are the common signs and symptoms of kidney cancer. However, these are also caused by other cancerous and noncancerous diseases. For instance, blood in the urine may also indicate urinary tract infection or prostate cancer.

  • Constant tiredness
  • Presence of lump on the side or lower back
  • Presence of blood in the urine
  • Weight loss
  • Constant fever
  • Back pain (without injury)
  • Loss of appetite
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Can a Blood Test Detect Cancer?

A blood sample is examined for abnormal cell growth and tumors in a series of cancer blood tests to determine a patient’s disease. Can blood tests detect cancer? Blood tests cannot identify all cancers, and there is no absolute telling that a single blood test can detect cancer cells, but it can give information regarding the body’s condition. Below are some of the blood tests for cancer diagnosis:

Prostate-Specific Antigen Test

This test is commonly used to screen prostate cancer in men by counting the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) present in the blood. PSA is a protein in the prostate gland. The rise in PSA is a potential sign of prostate cancer. However, the increase in PSA level may also show inflammation and enlargement of the prostate and other noncancerous conditions.

Circulating Tumor Cell Test

This test counts the circulating tumor cells (CTC) in a blood sample. The test can identify the cancer cells mixed up in the bloodstream due to their detachment from the solid tumor. This diagnostic test can scan colorectal, prostate, and breast cancers.

A recent study shows that when CTC Test is combined with Immuno-Cyto-Chemistry (ICC), it has a positive-predictive-value (PPV) of 99% in detecting prostate cancer. It’s four times more reliable than the standard prostate-specific-marker (PSA) blood test with only 25% PPV.

 Complete Blood Count Test

It evaluates the overall health of a person by measuring the cells in the bloodstream, including white and red blood cells and platelets.

  • Red Blood Cells (RBC) – Also called erythrocytes, these are commonly found in the bone marrow. It houses the hemoglobin that carries oxygen in the body. RBCs have a 120-day lifespan, and they are released into the bloodstream after maturity.
  • White Blood Cells (WBCs) – Clinically termed leukocytes, these are responsible for the body’s immune system, protecting the body against allergic reactions, inflammation, and infection.
  • Platelets – Also called thrombocytes, which refer to cell fragments circulating in the bloodstream. It’s responsible for normal blood clotting. High platelets can cause excessive clotting, while low platelets can lead to excessive bleeding.

What types of cancer can a CBC detect? CBC tests can diagnose blood cancers such as lymphoma, leukemia, infection, and anemia.

Flow Cytometry

It measures the cell properties from a blood sample using antibodies treatment and laser beams. Flow cytometry has a sensitive system that can analyze cells with a one-micron diameter and provide high cell composition resolutions. It can detect leukemia and lymphoma.

Cancer cells are also treated using special light-sensitive dyes to count the number of DNA. An abnormal amount of DNA in prostate and bladder patients may indicate recurrence of the disease.

CA-125 Test

This test provides the number of cancer antigens (CA-125) in the blood. A high CA-125 count is a sign of ovarian cancer for women. This diagnostic test is commonly done when women are already diagnosed with cancer. So, this test is not generally used to assess pre-cancerous conditions but to monitor the treatment and for possible recurrence. Lower CA-125 count is a sign that the treatment is working.

An elevated CA-125 level can also indicate other types of cancer in blood tests such as pancreatic, colon, breast, and lung cancers.

Does Cancer Show Up in Blood Work?

Multiple blood tests provide an early screening to identify patients with probable precancerous conditions for diagnosis and treatment. It can reduce the burden of cancer, and the survival rate can increase through early detection and proper management. Does blood test show cancer? Although the use of a single cancer lab test diagnosis still has no concrete evidence for its effectiveness, its potential is already a hope in the medical field, more so for cancer patients.

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Have you noticed your loved one becoming weaker and visiting hospitals more often? All American Hospice understands their illnesses and physical problems. We care as much as you do. We can provide care and support to your loved ones through our skilled professionals. We offer services at your home or in nursing homes and residential care facilities. Reach out to us and let us work together towards providing patients with the care they need.

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