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how can they tell cancer is in the blood?

Posts: 127
Joined: Feb 2009

I have heard that cancer cells can be in the blood how can they tell? is there a test for that

shereenjay's picture
Posts: 12
Joined: Sep 2009

My Uncle had a CAT scan, I think that's what it is called.

Posts: 1048
Joined: Aug 2006

A CAT Scan is like Xrays. Actually it is multiple Xrays spaced very closely together that go into a computer that makes a 3 dimensional picture of the tissues (normal and cancerous) that the doctors can examine on a computer from any angle they want. It is used to plan surgery to determine if you have cancer and to do rechecks to see if the cancer is back.

Posts: 1048
Joined: Aug 2006

Cancer is an umbrella term covering many different diseases that have one thing in common. In every case the cells of whatever tissue is involved have gone insane. No, they aren't the same kind of crazy that we go when we find out we have cancer(!), but if you look at pictures of normal tissue right next to cancer tissue, you can see that the shape is irregular and the nuclei (the center thing in the cell holding genetic material) is really weird looking. The messed up genetic stuff makes messed up cell patterns when the cell divides. Worse yet, the thing in the cell that regulates growth becomes impaired so this insane cell divides again and again. These cells invade normal tissue in the area and stop them from working properly.Another thing about cancer is that it tends to break off and travel to other sites where it can settle in and grow again. These are called metastases or "mets". The insane stuff still has some properties of the tissue it was before it went crazy genetically speaking, so lung cancer(which is soft tissue) that plants itself in your bones (which are supposed to be hard) causes bigtime problems like broken bones. These crazy cells and/or parts of them can travel in your bloodstream and/or your lymphatic system. Doctors and researchers are working on getting tests to measure how many cancer cells are in your bloodstream. More is worse. Some folks with cancer have no detectable levels. These tests aren't very good yet. When they thought I had ovarian cancer, they gave me a blood test to check my levels of a particular hormone that goes nuts when you have ovarian cancer. My level was in the normal range, but they still did surgery (I was okay) because they said the blood test was not reliable. They are working on a spit test for lung cancer, but it is still in the research level and is not used with patients that I know of. It will be instead of a biopsy or perhaps as a screening tool in the dentist's office. I know the researchers are working on various blood tests for numerous cancers. Some will screen the blood for actual cancer stem cells. Some will look for chemicals that the cancer produces like my ovarian cancer blood test did. But I don't know that they have a blood test yet for lung cancer patients. To find out that I had lung cancer, I had to have a lung biopsy operation.

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