Cancer has long been one of the biggest threats to our health in Britain, accounting for more than a quarter of all deaths in the UK. Usually, someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer every 2 minutes and the survival rate is just 50%.
Recent reports have shown a concerning fall in the number of people attending GP’s with cancer worries due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Cancer Research UK have found that GP referrals for suspected cancer have fallen by 75% because patients are staying at home. This is coupled with many screening programs being cancelled while the NHS copes with the pandemic. It is estimated that 2,700 people may be going undiagnosed from cancer each week.
Not only is this likely to have an impact on the survival rate, as cancer is often most effectively treated when diagnosed early. There is also the threat that once lockdown has ended the services will be overwhelmed with a backlog of people who were not diagnosed during the pandemic.
Understandably people want to avoid unnecessary trips to GP’s and hospital due to the risk of contracting COVID-19. So should you consider being tested at home?
Should you consider a cancer test at home?
If you were due to have a screening that was cancelled it may be worth considering a private test, especially if you're in a high-risk category. People most at risk of cancer vary by type, however, generally, you are more at risk if:
You are over 50 years old
You have had cancer before
You have a family history of cancer
You can feel a lump or have noticed symptoms
What cancers can I screen for at home?
Here are some of the most frequently used tests for a variety of cancer concerns.
Prostate Cancer - PSA Blood Test
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer for men and can be diagnosed with a PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) blood test. You should consider getting tested if you have risk factors for prostate cancer.
Risk factors include:
Having a family history of prostate cancer
Are over 50 years old
Have difficulty or frequent urination
Previously had prostate cancer - used to monitor recurrence.
Liver Cancer - AFP Blood Test
An AFP (Alpha-fetoprotein) blood test can indicate liver cancer as well as cirrhosis and hepatitis. 70% of people with liver cancer have a raised AFP level. It can also be used to monitor how well the cancer is responding to treatment, screen for recurrence if you have had liver cancer before or to rule out liver cancer if you have symptoms.
Pain or swelling in your abdomen
Cervical cancer - HPV Swab
HPV (Human papillomavirus) is an infection that is usually contracted through sexual contact. There are two types, 16 and 18, that are responsible for 70% of cervical cancer. The HPV swab can be used to screen for the infection. It is recommended that you are screened regularly if you are female and 30 years or over.
Bowel Cancer - FOB/FIT Faecal Test
A FOB (faecal occult blood) or FIT (faecal immunochemical test) looks for blood in your faeces. It can indicate colon or rectal cancer. Blood in your faeces may be microscopic so you cannot see it or you may have noticed black tar-like substance in your poo.
FOB/FIT screening is recommended for everyone over the age of 50 every 2 years as bowel cancer often does not have symptoms.
Blood in your stool
Unexplained pain in your stomach
Reduced appetite or unexplained weight loss
Haemorrhoids and anal fissures
A lump in your abdomen
Breast Cancer - CA 15-3 Blood Test
The CA 15-3 blood test measures the level of cancer antigen 15-3 which becomes elevated when breast cancer worsens or spreads.
The cancer antigen 15-3 is used to monitor response to breast cancer treatment and disease recurrence.
Pancreatic Cancer - CA 19-9 blood test
CA19-9 (cancer antigen 19-9) is a tumour marker found in the blood which can be a sign of pancreatic cancer. It is used to monitor the progress of pre-existing cancer or to assess the effectiveness of cancer treatment.
If you are concerned about specific symptoms and are worried they could be cancer, we also offer online GP consultations who can recommend if a screening or test is necessary. We are happy to help advise what might be the best next step. Get in contact here: https://visithealth.london/