Cancer occurs in a person due to mutational changes in the DNA. This leads to uncontrolled and abnormal growth of the cells. In order to diagnosis cancer accurately, a careful examination and checking of the cells is required. This can be done by taking a sample from the affected area, or by checking the cell sample. The abnormal malignant cells are quite different to the normal cells when it comes to shape and size.
Usually, a doctor will ask a for a cancer test, if he or she suspects the disease at time of a physical exam. So, it is quite common for people to ask would cancer show up in a blood test. Unfortunately, it is not possible to get a concrete answer through just the blood test. However, a blood test is done along with hosts of other tests to diagnose cancer. Some of the blood tests done for cancer will require checking of the functioning of the liver as well as checking the levels of the hemoglobin. Any abnormalities seen in these 2 tests may be indicative of cancer.
When it comes to leukemia, the cancer would show up in a blood test. However, this test is slightly different as the blood cells are checked under a microscope in the form of blood film. However, abnormal cells from cancers that are not related to the blood, like cancer of the breast, colon or lungs can be detected using blood tests. So, a sample from the affected organ is checked under the microscope and using other assays to detect cancer. Even where leukemia is concerned, a confirmed diagnosis will only be made after a sample of the bone marrow is examined.
However, due to the advancement medical science has made, there are certain proteins present in the blood that can give an indication of whether a person has cancer or not. These proteins are produced by the malignancy and are known as tumor markers. One example of a tumor marker is the prostate specific antigen, also known as PSA, which is only produced by the cells of the prostate. When the levels are low, then malignancy is not a cause for concern. However, the levels of PSA in the blood are high, then it means that the man has cancer of the prostate. However, high levels of PSA can also be on account of prostatitis. Hence, just elevated levels of PSA do offer a concrete diagnosis for prostate cancer.
It has been seen that since tumor markers can also be present in the blood when a person has benign and non-malignant growths, they cannot be used for diagnosing cancer. However, where prostate cancer is concerned, there seems to be link between the levels of PSA and the size of the tumor. So, if the tumor size shrinks, then the levels of PSA in the blood reduce.
Similarly, there are also tumor markers for other kinds of cancer, like CA125 for cancer of the ovaries, CEA for breast cancer and AFP for cancer of the liver. However, using these markers to diagnose cancer is highly controversial as in some people these markers give a false negative result even when the people have the cancer. So, it is not necessary that cancer will show up in a blood test.
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