The goal of cancer screening is to improve your veterinarian’s ability to detect cancer in your pet. As with any laboratory test, there are important considerations to keep in mind when using this test. Continue reading to learn more.
Important Facts Regarding Cancer Screening for your pet
Testing is recommended as an annual screening test for all dogs starting at 7 years of age and potentially starting at younger ages in certain breeds known to develop cancer earlier; and as an aid-in-diagnosis for dogs in which cancer is suspected based on clinical signs or other clinical findings.
This test may detect cancer at an early stage in some cases; however, not all cancer types, sizes, or stages are detectable with this test. Results of this test should be interpreted by a veterinarian in the context of your dog’s medical history and clinical signs.
The test does not provide a definitive diagnosis of cancer. If your dog receives a Cancer Signal Detected result, more testing will likely be recommended to establish a diagnosis.
The test looks for cancer in your dog’s body at the time of the blood draw. It does not determine the future risk of developing cancer. For dogs at higher risk of cancer (such as dogs over the age of 7 or dogs belonging to breeds known to be predisposed to cancer), regularly scheduled testing is recommended to increase the chances for early cancer detection throughout their lifetime.
In rare cases, the test may detect cancer that is not apparent in clinical evaluation. If this happens, your veterinarian may recommend additional testing and/or very close monitoring to look for early signs of cancer in your dog.
As with any diagnostic test, false positive results may occur, suggesting the presence of cancer in a patient that is actually cancer-free. In a large validation study, the test has shown a very low false positive rate of 1.5%. In other words, only about 3 in 200 cancer-free dogs would be expected to receive a false positive test result.
As with any diagnostic test, false negative results may occur, suggesting the absence of cancer in a patient that actually has cancer. The test has an overall cancer detection rate of 55%. This still means that about 45% of cancer cases may go undetected (i.e., false negatives) after one use of the test. For this reason, a negative test result cannot rule out the possibility of cancer, and your veterinarian may recommend further testing if there is still a high suspicion of cancer after a negative result. Screening at regular intervals will likely increase the cumulative detection rate of the test throughout the dog’s lifetime.
The test has been shown to detect 30 different cancer types. The detection rate varies among cancer types. Furthermore, the ability of the test to detect cancer may vary based on the location and extent (i.e., size and location (stage)) of the cancer in the body.
Important decisions about treatment or euthanasia should not be made based on the results of this test alone.
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