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Screening for other cancers

Lung cancer

There is no screening programme for lung cancer in the UK. Doctors can detect lung cancer using a chest X-ray. But this method is not sensitive enough at spotting early cancers and it mostly finds advanced tumours that are difficult to treat.

Professor Stephen Spiro in London is leading a study of two possible techniques for detecting lung cancer early in people with high risks:

  • Computerised tomography (or CT), where a scanning machine builds up a three-dimensional picture of the lungs by taking several X-rays.
  • Bronchoscopy, where doctors use a flexible tube called a bronchoscope to carefully inspect the lungs from inside.

Find out more about lung cancer screening on CancerHelp UK.

Ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer leaflet

Ovarian cancer is difficult to diagnose at an early stage because its symptoms are vague and can often be mistaken for other, less serious conditions. Screening could help to detect ovarian cancer early. But at the moment, we don’t know if it could reduce the number of women dying from the disease.

Professor Ian Jacobs in London is running a large trial to see if two possible tests could save lives by detecting ovarian cancer early. These tests are:

  • CA125 blood test, where doctors measure the levels of a protein called CA125 in a woman’s blood. High levels could be a sign of ovarian cancer, but not always. And not all women with ovarian cancer have high CA125 levels.
  • Transvaginal ultrasound, where an ultrasound probe is used to scan the ovaries from inside the vagina. The idea is to get a clearer picture than you would get using ultrasound from the surface of the abdomen.

Early results from the trial have shown that the tests are good at spotting ovarian cancer. But the trial is still going on to find out whether screening could actually save lives from ovarian cancer.

Find out more about ovarian cancer screening on CancerHelp UK.

Other cancers

Gullet cancer leaflet

For many types of cancer, scientists must overcome two challenges before they can come up with an effective screening programme:

  • They must develop a test that can reliably and cost-effectively detect the cancer early.
  • They must work out which people have a high risk of the cancer, so they know who to screen. This is especially important if the cancer is rare.

Our CancerHelp UK website has more information on the potential for screening for:

Knowing your body is still important

Knowing your body and what’s normal for you can help you to notice any unusual changes that could be signs of cancer. If you notice anything that’s unusual for you, make an appointment to see your doctor and get it checked out.

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Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team
Updated: 25 September 2009