Your doctor may run tests even when you do not have symptoms of cancer. This brochure defines some of the tests used to screen for cancer, and how the stage, or progression of cancer is determined.
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Your doctor may run tests even when you do not have symptoms of cancer. These are called screening tests. Screening is helpful because it is easier to treat cancer when it is caught early. In some cases, cancer can even be cured if found at an early stage.
Remember to talk with your care team about the risks involved with some screening tests. There is no guarantee that cancer found during screening will be curable.
If you have symptoms, your doctor will run diagnostic tests. These tests will tell whether or not you have cancer. They will also tell what kind of cancer you have so you and your care team can start a treatment plan.
The 3 main types of tests that can find cancer:
What stage is it?
Cancer is progressive. This means it grows and develops over time. To keep track of cancer's progress, doctors use staging. Finding the stage of your cancer is very important because it will help you and your care team plan for treatment.
Test results and cancer stages answer these questions:
With the answers, your doctor may give your cancer a stage using TNM (tumor, nodes, metastasis) numbers. Ask your care team for more information about TNM staging. Another way to stage cancer goes from 0 to 4:
Stage 1, 2 and 3