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Questions to ask about finding cancer early

The following are questions that you can ask the healthcare team about early detection of and screening for cancer. Choose the questions that fit your, or your child’s, situation and add questions of your own. You may find it helpful to take the list to the next appointment and to write down the answers.

  • Is there anything that can be done to find this cancer early? Are there tests for this cancer?
  • What is involved in testing for this cancer? What tests are used?
  • Should I be tested? Why?
  • Should my children be tested? Why?
  • How often should test(s) be done?
  • What are the risks involved with the test(s)?
  • When will the test(s) be scheduled? Is there a waiting list?
  • Who makes the arrangements or appointments for the test(s)?
  • Is there a cost for the test(s)? If so, how much?
  • Where will the test(s) be done?
  • Is any preparation needed for the test(s)?
  • How long will the test(s) take?
  • Are there any side effects to the test(s)? Is the procedure painful?
  • Who will explain the test results?
  • May I have a copy of the test results?
  • What happens if the results are not normal?
  • What other tests will need to be done? Why?

early detection

Finding a precancerous condition or cancer at an early stage.

For most cancers, early detection and starting treatment at an early stage can help improve survival.


Checking or testing for a disease in a group of people who don’t show any symptoms of the disease.

Examples of cancer screening tests include mammography, colonoscopy and Pap test.

Organized screening programs are offered to groups of people through a coordinated program. Opportunistic (or ad hoc) screening is offered outside of an organized screening program (for example, some women have Pap tests at their doctor’s office during a physical exam).


A teenaged girl sitting on her bed I was in total shock when I heard the diagnosis of cancer. Cancer to me was an adult’s disease. Being a 13-year-old teenager, it certainly wasn’t even on my radar.

Read Sabrina's story

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