Tests are used to screen for different types of cancer.
Some screening tests are used because they have been shown to be helpful both in finding cancers early and in decreasing the chance of dying from these cancers. Other tests are used because they have been shown to find cancer in some people; however, it has not been proven in clinical trials that use of these tests will decrease the risk of dying from cancer.
If you've had skin cancer, you don't need to stay indoors and read a book while everyone else is out riding a bike or at a ball game. You do need to be extra careful in the sun, though.
"We want to encourage a healthy lifestyle," says Lisa Chipps, MD, director of dermatologic surgery at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
But once you've had a skin cancer, she says, you're more likely to have another. If you've had a melanoma, the most serious skin cancer, you're nine times more likely to have a new one...
Scientists study screening tests to find those with the fewest risks and most benefits. Cancer screening trials also are meant to show whether early detection (finding cancer before it causes symptoms) decreases a person's chance of dying from the disease. For some types of cancer, finding and treating the disease at an early stage may result in a better chance of recovery.
Clinical trials that study cancer screening methods are taking place in many parts of the country. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
Regular exams of the skin by both you and your doctor increase the chance of finding skin cancer early. Checking your skin every month can help you find changes that should be reported to your doctor. Regular skin checks by a doctor are important for people who have already had skin cancer.
If an area on the skin looks abnormal, a biopsy is usually done. The doctor will remove as much of the suspicious tissue as possible with a local excision. A pathologist then looks at the tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells. Because it is sometimes difficult to tell if a skin growth is benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer), you may want to have the biopsy sample checked by a second pathologist.
Most melanomas in the skin can be seen by the naked eye. Usually, melanoma grows for a long time under the top layer of skin (the epidermis) but does not grow into the deeper layer of skin (the dermis). This allows time for skin cancer to be found early. Melanoma is easier to cure if it is found before it spreads.
Other screening tests are being studied in clinical trials.
Screening clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute
February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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