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Do standard blood tests detect early signs of cancers?
Dec 2, 2001

Does the standard blood tests performed at HIV clinics detect early signs of cancer? If not, are there any other ways to detect cancers (all kinds) before you become seriously ill?

Response from Dr. Dezube

You ask a simple and important question for which there is no easy answer. There is NO "standard blood test" to detect cancer. Oh how I wish that such a test would exist! The American Cancer Society and other organizations have recommendations for folks, but they are hardly foolproof.

As just some of their suggestions (please note that these vary according to age)-- Counseling and examination of the oral cavity, thyroid, skin, lymph nodes, testicles, and ovaries, plus breast self examination, clinical breast examination, mammogram, PAP test and pelvic examination, digital rectal examination, colonoscopy, PSA (for prostate cancer) blood test. This list is not meant to be all inclusive, but rather to give you an idea. All of the above are the recommended tests for people WITHOUT symptoms. If you have any symptoms, then these would prompt a different approach. You should bring to your provider's attention all symptoms, including cough, change in bowel habit, change in skin lesion, and so on.

PAP smears are particularly important in HIV'ers-- cervical PAPS in HIV+ women and anal PAPS in HIV+ men. This has been the subject of many other responses on "thebody.com".

Detection of early cancer is a high priority. Please work with your health care provider.

One last note is that the recommendations for detection tests vary not only with a patient's age, but also according to his(her) medical history, his(her) family's medical history, his(her) habits (use of tobacco, alcohol), and so on.


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