The High-Tech Cancer Screening Tests You Need To Know About
The High-Tech Cancer Screening Tests You Need To Know About

The High-Tech Cancer Screening Tests You Need To Know About

It's estimated that one in two of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime. Fortunately, doctors like Dr Lucy Hooper of Coyne Medical say you’re more in control than you realise. From the importance of genetic testing to why it’s worth having mammograms from the age of 40 and the screenings enabling doctors to stop cancer’s advances faster, she explains why…
By Tor West
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Image: PER IMAGES/STOCKSY UNITED

Knowledge is power. One in two people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime but 40% of cancers are preventable, meaning the more you know about your health, the better. Knowing your genetic risk is a good place to start. Up to 10% of cancers are due to a genetic mutation, which might not sound like much, but in the case of breast cancer, for example, having the BRCA1 gene gives you a 65-85% chance of breast cancer in your lifetime. Less than 5% of people in London with BRCA gene mutations have been diagnosed, but finding these mutations before a cancer is diagnosed puts the power in your hands.

I recently discovered my genes put my risk of breast cancer at over 60%. While researching genetic screening for my own patients, I realised I was carrying the PALB2 gene, similar to BRCA2. I opted to have a risk-reducing double mastectomy, reducing my chances of breast cancer to less than 5%. Like over half of people found to have dangerous mutations in their genes, I didn’t have a worrying family history and didn’t meet the NHS criteria for testing. Getting early access to NHS breast cancer screening is complicated – you need to have a strong family history, typically more than one relative affected and at young ages. Even if your mother had breast cancer, that won’t necessarily qualify you for additional NHS screening. My sister has since been tested and was also found to carry the same gene. 

All it takes is a simple blood test. At Coyne Medical, our genetic testing is a blood test that screens for harmful changes in 51 genes linked to common cancers, including cancers of the digestive tract (bowel, stomach and pancreas), kidneys, bladder, breast, ovary and prostate. Your results come with recommendations on how you can reduce your risk. We might recommend colonoscopy screening for bowel cancer or MRI screening to prevent breast cancer. Our team of doctors will also provide lifestyle advice to further improve your health. 

After genetic testing, I made the decision to have a mastectomy, REDUCING MY CHANCES of breast cancer by 95%.

Early detection matters. Bowel cancer cases, for example, are increasing in the UK, and diagnosis at an early stage, such as stage 1 or 2, before it has spread elsewhere in the body, means a better chance of survival. However, over half of bowel cancer cases are already at stage 3 or 4 when they are diagnosed. At Coyne Medical we offer a blood test that helps spot cancer before you show any symptoms. When cancer is in your body, it sheds tiny cells into the bloodstream, known as circulating tumour cells. These cells are the main reason cancer eventually spreads in the body, and this blood test can detect both the presence of these cells and where they are located. If your test comes back positive, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer, but that you’re at a high risk for cancer. The information it provides can also guide further testing. 

In your 40s is the perfect time to get tested. At this stage in life, you likely have responsibilities – whether it’s looking after family or children – that put your health into question. Whether you’re worried about your cancer risk or have had a close family member recently diagnosed with cancer, understanding your personal risk factors is extremely powerful. Our Ultimate Health Screening is a comprehensive test and one of our most popular options. It includes blood tests, a full-body MRI scan and body composition tests to provide an accurate picture of your health. 

It's worth having a private mammogram. Breast cancer screening in the UK starts at 50 on the NHS but having an annual mammogram from the age of 40 can reduce your risk of dying from breast cancer by 25%. A private mammogram can also check the density of your breasts, a lesser-known risk factor for breast cancer than standard testing misses. Breasts are a mixture of fat cells, glands and fibrous tissue. Fat shows up black on a mammogram, and women with dense breasts have little fat tissue in their breasts, making their mammogram pictures look very white. The problem is, breast cancer also appears white on a mammogram, so looking for cancer in dense breasts has been likened to looking for a white cotton ball in a snowstorm. At Coyne Medical, we offer women over 40 a breast density assessment with their annual mammogram screening. Mammograms are the only way to know your breast density.

Your risk of cancer from having a glass of wine every night is MORE THAN YOUR RISK from HRT will ever be.

Our cardiovascular health deserves just as much airtime. Breast cancer is the biggest fear for women in their 30s and 40s, but more women die of coronary heart disease in the UK under the age of 65 than die of breast cancer. For women, our risk increases with age, as we lose the protective effects of oestrogen once we hit the menopause. High blood pressure and high cholesterol don’t have symptoms, so it’s essential to get these checked regularly. For further insights, we also offer a test that goes beyond basic measurements, using newer lipoprotein markers for more accurate results. Studies show lipoprotein is the strongest genetic risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and your levels can be high even if you have normal cholesterol. 

Simple lifestyle changes will reduce your risk of cancer. Alcohol, exercise and diet are where you can make the biggest changes. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week, whether it’s brisk walking, cardio or weights. You don’t need to push yourself to the extreme to reap the health benefits of exercise – getting comfortably breathless is the sweet spot. Your diet also matters, and a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fresh fruit, vegetables and fibre is ideal. Cut back on processed food, saturated fat and foods that contain trans fats. Alcohol is, unfortunately, a significant risk factor for cancer. I see so many women worried about HRT raising their risk of cancer, but the truth is, your risk of cancer from having a glass of wine every night is more than your risk from HRT will ever be. If you can’t cut back on alcohol entirely, at the very least make sure you have some alcohol-free days during the week.

To book a health screening at Coyne Medical or to find out more, visit CoyneMedical.com

DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

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