Early detection of cancer can be essential to effective treatment. While there is no blood test specifically for cancer, certain tests are able to identify factors that indicate the presence of cancer cells.
Types of Blood Tests for Cancer Diagnosis
There are some commonly used blood tests that doctors may order if cancer is suspected in a patient, including:
- Complete blood count test (CBC): This test checks the number of different types of cells present in the body and their condition. It provides a reading on red and white blood cells and platelets. This is an effective test for detecting blood cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia, as abnormal cell levels are often an indication. In particular, cell counts that are low may indicate an effect on your blood or bone marrow. This test can also help doctors monitor the effects of chemotherapy on the body, as lower blood cell counts can also be caused by chemotherapy.
- Tumor marker tests: Tumor cells create chemicals called tumor markers that are present in blood. There are several tumor marker tests that can detect prostate, breast, liver, ovarian, testicular, lung and other types of cancer. However, this test alone is not enough to make a cancer diagnosis. This is because some normal cells in the body can produce tumor markers, meaning elevated levels of tumor markers may have nothing to do with cancer.
- Blood protein test: A blood protein test can be helpful in identifying multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. The test detects immunoglobulins, which are abnormal immune system proteins. Elevated levels of immunoglobulins may indicate multiple myeloma.
- Circulating tumor cell tests: These tests detect cells that break away from the origin site of the cancer in the body and are floating in the bloodstream. The FDA has approved one type of circulating tumor cell test to help in monitoring people with prostate, colorectal and breast cancer, but overall this type of test is not as commonly used.
- HDL cholesterol test: High HDL cholesterol, known as the “good kind” of cholesterol, can reduce your risk of cancer by up to a third. Regular testing for HDL cholesterol can help as a preventive measure to make sure your cholesterol stays on track.
What Do the Test Results Mean?
Overall, everyone’s body is different, and many factors play into test results, from your height and weight to the foods you eat. And sometimes, abnormal test results are not indicative of cancer. That’s why it’s important to review all possibilities with your doctor and take your specific health and medical history into account.
For comprehensive cancer care, contact Gettysburg Cancer Center today.