What is screening?
Screening is looking for signs of disease, such as breast cancer, before a person has symptoms. The goal of screening tests is to find
cancer at an early stage when it can be treated and may be cured. Sometimes a screening test finds cancer that is very small or very slow growing. These cancers are unlikely to cause death or illness during the person's lifetime.
Scientists are trying to better understand which
people are more likely to get certain types of cancer. For example, they look at the person's age, their family history, and certain exposures during their lifetime. This
information helps doctors recommend who should be screened for cancer, which
screening tests should be used, and how often the tests should be done.
It is important to remember that your doctor does not necessarily
think you have cancer if he or she suggests a screening test. Screening
tests are done when you have no cancer symptoms. Women who have a strong family history or a personal history of cancer or other risk factors may also be offered genetic testing.
If a screening test result is abnormal, you may need to have more tests done to find out if you have cancer. These are called diagnostic tests, rather than screening tests.
See the following PDQ summary for more information about cancer screening: