Cancer screening for the general population


Many people have the misconception that blood test is a good screening tool for all sorts of medical conditions and that includes cancer markers to detect cancer.A blood-cancer marker is a substance produced in the body by cancerous cells. It is also made by some normal cells, although the levels tend to be much higher when there is cancer.

While some cancer makers can be considered for individuals with risk factors, many cancer markers are not recommended as a screening tool by many experts.

Generally, cancer markers are most useful when used to monitor response to cancer treatment and to screen for cancer recurrence.

Like essential health screening tests, there are also some cancer screening modalities considered to be essential for the general population.

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Cancer TypeScreening Test OptionsFrequencyTarget Group
Breast CancerMammographyYearlyWomen age 40-49 years old
2-YearlyWoman age 50 years old and above
Clinical Breast ExaminationYearlyWoman age 30 years old and above
Breast MRI and specialist reviewWomen suspected to be at high genetic risk for breast cancer
Colorectal CancerFaecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) and Digital Rectal Examination (DRE)YearlyAverage risk, asymptomatic individual, from age 50 years old and above
ColonoscopyEvery 10 years
CT colonoscopyEvery 5 years
Barium EnemaEvery 5 years
Cervical CancerPAP smear3-YearlyAll women who have ever had sex, from age 25 - 69 years old
YearlyWomen who are HIV positive or immunocompromised
Liver CancerBlood test: Alpha-feto protein6-monthlyPatients with hepatitis B, hepatitis C or liver cirrhosis
Ultrasound examinationYearly
Prostate CancerBlood test: PSAYearlyFor men aged 55 to 69 years, to discuss with doctors of the risk and benefit before testing
2-yearly if <1.0 ng/ml