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Cancer - General Medical Diagnostics Screening

Cancer Marker Tests In Singapore And How They Help Early Detection Of Cancer

Cancer marker tests in Singapore.

The Importance Of Early Detection Of Cancer

The likelihood of successfully treating cancer is considerably increased with early detection and treatment. The two elements of early cancer detection are screening, and early diagnosis. While screening consists of evaluating individuals to find those who have cancer before any symptoms occur, early diagnosis focuses on identifying cancer in symptomatic patients as early as possible. Cancer marker tests in Singapore may help patients detect their cancers early and get appropriate treatment.

Cancer Screening Versus Early Diagnosis

According to the WHO, early diagnosis “is particularly relevant to cancers of the breast, cervix, mouth, larynx, colon and rectum, and skin”. Mass population screening programmes, on the other hand, is “advocated only for cervical, breast and colorectal cancer” due to the prevalence of these diseases, resource, and other considerations. Of course, this does not preclude private individuals from seeking out cancer screening services if they feel there is a need for themselves to get screening (e.g. have significant cancer risk factors).

Cancer screening vs Early Diagnosis. Credit: WHO
Cancer screening vs Early Diagnosis. Credit: WHO

What Are Tumour Markers?

Tumour markers are substances that are present in the blood, urine, or tissue in cancer patients at higher-than-normal levels. These compounds, often known as biomarkers, can be produced by tumours. Additionally, healthy cells may also produce them in reaction to the tumours. The presence and concentration of these chemicals in your body are ascertained by cancer marker testing. Proteins typically act as markers for tumours. Furthermore, certain genetic changes are also used as tumour markers.

Different types of cancers will have different markers. Some tumour markers may be unique to a particular type of cancer, whereas others may be linked to multiple types of cancers. There are also cancers for which there are current no known tumour markers.

Cancer Marker Testing

Tumour marker tests (may be referred to by some people as cancer marker tests) may be done as a blood test, as a urine test, or as a biopsy. As tumour marker levels fluctuates over time, these tests may similarly need to be repeated over the course of a patient’s cancer treatment journey.

Cancer Marker Testing And Early Detection Of Cancer

Cancer marker testing, together with other tests, can assist doctors to diagnose cancer and determine the treatment strategy for a patient. The reasons for, the timing of, and the frequency of these tests vary widely from person to person. In some circumstances, they may be used to assist in screening for a specific type of cancer in asymptomatic individuals who have a high risk of developing the illness.

Doctors will mostly test for tumour markers to:

  • Choose the treatment or combination of treatments that will be most effective for a particular form of cancer for a particular patient.
  • Assess the efficacy of a treatment.
  • Identify a patent’s likelihood of recovery.
  • Estimate the likelihood that cancer will return after therapy, and to identify if it does return.

Many clinics in Singapore offer health screening packages that include blood tests for tumour markers. These may help at risk individuals increase the chance of early detection and treatment.

Limitations Of Cancer Marker Tests

Tumour marker testing is a useful tool, but it nonetheless has limitations. In respect of detection and diagnosis of cancer, the limitations include:

  • The possibility of false-positives, as there are other conditions that may also give rise to tumour markers.
  • False-negatives, if the tumour maker level does not go up until after the cancer has become advanced, or if the patient has unusually low marker levels even with the presence of cancer.
  • Some cancers not having known tumour markers, or have markers that cannot be found with tests that are currently available.

Thus, due to the possibility for false-negatives, even if a test does not indicate elevated presence of tumour markers, people should nonetheless remain vigilant and be mindful if they observe the presence of any cancer symptoms.

Cancer Marker Tests In Singapore

If you are considering undergoing cancer marker tests to screen for cancer, you should ask your doctor which tumour markers you are suitable for, and how frequently they recommend these tests. Also, enquire as to what the doctor expects the examinations to reveal.

Below are some of the clinics and their health screening packages (that include cancer marker tests) in Singapore:

Further Reading On Cancer

This article is informative only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.