dish with blood for examining

Which Lab Tests Can Detect Cancer?

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written by:
Lianna Palkovick
MSC English Certificate in Medical Writing & Editing

The best and most prevalent tests for detecting cancer are the Grail’s Multi-Cancer Early Detection (MCED) lab test and the genetic cancer test. They are comprehensive tests that can discover if you already have cancer or if you have genetic predispositions to develop cancer and tumor cells.

Laboratory tests are vital in the never-ending quest for early cancer identification and efficient treatment because they offer vital information about the existence and properties of malignant cells. In the field of oncology, these advanced diagnostic instruments have become important, allowing medical practitioners to more accurately detect and track different forms of cancer. Significant progress has been made in the field of cancer detection, from imaging studies to blood testing.

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Grail’s Multi-Cancer Early Detection Lab Test

In the fight against cancer, one of the most promising weapons is multi-cancer early detection (MCED) technology. Nowadays, a lot of malignancies are discovered too late, with few treatment choices and a sometimes dismal prognosis. Multi-cancer early detection testing has been made possible by recent developments in machine learning and next-generation sequencing.
The Galleri® test, which is the first commercially accessible MCED test of its sort, was announced by GRAIL in 2021. It uses a single blood sample to identify a signal shared by several malignancies, including many that are not suggested for screening. The likelihood of discovering cancer early is increased by MCED testing, which enables patients to be checked for a common signal by more than 50 cancer types.

How The Grail’s Multi-Cancer Early Detection Lab Test Work

In the Galleri test, DNA fragments found in the bloodstream are sequenced. A machine learning algorithm is then used to identify if the DNA fragments are from malignant or healthy cells, and if the latter, it predicts the kind of organ tissue linked to the cancer signal.

dish with blood for examining

All dying cells in the body, whether healthy or sick, naturally release little quantities of DNA into the circulation. This process is known as DNA shedding. If malignant cells are present in the body, they also release DNA, which means that DNA fragments from both healthy and sick or cancerous cells may be present in the blood. Methylation plays a role in identifying whether each DNA fragment in the blood originated from a healthy cell or a malignant one.

The natural process of methylation adds methyl groups to the DNA molecule. Methylation can indicate specific regions of DNA to switch on or off, modifying the activity of a DNA segment without altering the sequence. Genes are normally turned “on” by demethylation and “off” by methylation.

Genetic Cancer Lab Test

Genetic testing is the process of using diagnostic procedures to search for specific gene alterations, or mutations. There are now many different genetic test types in use, and more are being created.

When a Genetic Cancer Lab Test Should Be Done?

One sort of testing used to search for inherited DNA alterations that may increase an individual’s chance of developing a particular type of cancer is called predictive genetic testing. It may be recommended to do this kind of testing for:

  • To determine whether they have a gene mutation that raises their risk, a person with a strong family history of a particular form of cancer should be examined. Should they possess an inherited mutation, they may choose to undergo screening tests to detect cancer at an early stage or even try to reduce their risk. One example would be screening individuals with several family members with a history of breast cancer for alterations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are known to raise the risk of breast cancer and certain other malignancies.
  • An individual who has already received a cancer diagnosis, particularly if there are further indications that the disease may have been brought on by an inherited mutation (strong family history, early diagnosis, or rare disease, such breast cancer in a male). Genetic testing may reveal if a person is more likely to acquire certain types of cancer. Determining whether to get tested for the mutation might also be beneficial to other family members.
  • Relatives of an individual whose hereditary gene mutation has been shown to raise their chance of developing cancer. Testing can assist them in determining if they require screening tests to detect cancer at an early stage or whether they should strive to reduce their risk.


In the context of contemporary healthcare, the importance of cancer testing cannot be emphasized enough. It is clear from navigating the complex world of laboratory testing for cancer detection that timely and precise diagnosis is essential to defeating this deadly illness. Early cancer detection increases the likelihood of favorable results by enabling timely intervention and assisting in the creation of individualized treatment strategies. The ongoing development of diagnostic tools demonstrates our dedication to improving our capacity to identify cancer early on, when treatment can have the greatest impact.

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Lab Testing - Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it important to do lab tests occasionally?

It is important to do lab tests occasionally because they can provide valuable information about an individual's health and help to identify potential health issues early on. Lab tests can measure a wide range of factors, including blood count, cholesterol levels, liver and kidney function, and hormone levels, and can provide insight into an individual's overall health and wellness. Additionally, lab tests can help to diagnose and monitor the progression of certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, and can help to identify any potential health risks or concerns. By doing lab tests occasionally, individuals can take proactive steps to maintain their health and wellbeing and reduce the risk of potential health problems in the future.

What does a routine blood test cover?

A routine blood test is used to check for a range of things, including your blood count and the levels of certain chemicals and substances in your blood. Blood tests can also be used to check how well certain organs, such as your liver and kidneys, are functioning.

How is a blood sample collected for lab testing?

A blood sample for lab testing is typically collected through a process called venipuncture, which involves inserting a small needle into a vein to draw blood. This is usually done on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand.

What is the cost of a lab test?

In general, the cost of a lab test can range from a few dollars to several hundred dollars. It is always best to consult with your doctor or healthcare provider to get an accurate estimate of the cost of a lab test.

Read More: Lab Testing FAQ