Medical Q&As

Cancer - family history?

I would like a test done for cancer, as I am a little paranoid since a very close relative of mine died from this disease last year. Should I visit a doctor or the hospital and what should I ask for?

Cancer is an umbrella term for a wide diversity of malignant diseases. The causes of the different forms of malignant disease can vary. For example genetics might be important in certain forms of breast cancer whereas viruses have been implicated in the case of carcinoma of the cervix. Other forms of cancer can be triggered by exposure to radiation whereas others may be related to diet. Cigarette smoking is the single biggest cause of cancer in our society. In other words there is no single cause of cancer that is common to all forms of cancer and therefore there is no universal screening test for cancer in general. I would suggest that you visit your GP to discuss your concerns and I would also suggest that you mention your relative’s death and in particular the cause of death. Your GP may be able to address your concerns by discussing the issue with you and could arrange specific testing for particular cancers if appropriate.