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Even if you don’t have any symptoms, you can still be checked for cancer. The tests used to see if you may have cancer or pre-cancer are called cancer screening tests. These screening tests are different for each kind of cancer, and there are new tests being developed each year.
Cancer screening can be an important part of preventing cancer or detecting it sooner to get the earliest possible treatment. But you might not need the same screening tests as someone else. National expert groups of doctors and scientists have developed guidelines to help people and their doctors choose the right cancer screenings. There are different guidelines depending on whether you’re a man or woman, whether you’re under or over a certain age, or whether you do things like smoke or have a family history of cancer. In addition, your screening needs will change as you age.
So which cancer screenings are right for you? One place to start is to use a cancer risk calculator. Risk calculators can help you learn more about the cancer screening recommendations for people who share your age, sex, cancer-related behaviors like smoking, and your family history.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a calculator that shows you all the national recommendations for cancer screenings, based on your personal risk information.
If your screening test is positive, sometimes your doctor may recommend further tests to confirm or learn more about any signs of cancer that a screening test uncovers. These further tests are called diagnostic tests and can include imaging like X-rays or a CAT scan, further blood tests, or biopsy, which involves removing a small piece of tissue for study.
If you have signs or symptoms, which are changes in your body or your habits, that you are worried about, please contact your primary care provider.