What is Multi-Cancer Early Detection Testing?

Multi-Cancer Early Detection (MCED) testing is a new way of screening for multiple types of cancer all at once through a simple blood sample. MCED testing aims to identify individuals with cancer at the earliest stages and should be used together with U.S. guideline-recommended cancer screenings. As with many other screening tests, additional testing is always needed to confirm a suspected cancer diagnosis when an MCED test returns a result of “cancer signal detected.”

How does it work?

Even in the earliest stages of cancer, cancerous cells often shed a cancer signal that can be found in our blood. A blood sample is used by the MCED test to detect the presence or absence of this signal. If a cancer signal is detected, the test can often pinpoint the origin of the cancer in the body, thereby helping the care team to develop the next steps for the patient.

What can it detect?

The MCED test can detect signals for at least 50 types of cancers, many of which currently have no recommended early screening tests. It can also alert you to hard-to-detect, often aggressive types of cancer like pancreatic, ovarian and esophageal cancers.

Benefits of Multi-Cancer Early Detection Test

  • Early Detection: Early detection of cancer increases successful treatment outcomes
  • Ease of Testing: Quick and simple blood test that delivers results in about two weeks
  • Targeted Results: Can often pinpoint where the cancer signal comes from in the body

Is MCED testing right for you?

The MCED test is recommended for adults with an elevated risk for cancer, such as those aged 50 or older. This new blood test should be used in addition to, not in place of, other cancer-screening tests recommended by your health care provider. Compliance with traditional screening recommendations is important even when an MCED test returns a result of “no cancer signal detected” because MCED testing does not detect all cancers. It’s also important to know that MCED testing is different from commonly performed genetic testing which looks at inherited genes that might indicate a higher risk of cancer across an individual’s lifetime. The MCED test does not assess for inherited genetic changes or a person’s genetic predisposition to developing cancer.

MCED tests generally provide one of two possible results: “cancer signal detected” or “no cancer signal detected." A recent research study showed that cancer signals can be found in the blood about a year before symptoms appear. While this supports the importance of annual MCED testing, we recommend you discuss this with your healthcare provider so that your specific cancer risk factors can be considered.

How to get tested?

A thoughtful discussion with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of testing is essential. Testing typically involves a venipuncture to collect blood in tubes as you might have experienced when visiting your doctor in the past. Not all doctors offer MCED testing so be sure to ask.

Most insurance companies do not currently offer coverage for this type of testing so please check with your health plan administrator to understand the cost of testing that you will be responsible for.

Interpreting the results:

MCED tests generally provide one of two possible results. Either a cancer signal was detected or no cancer signal was detected. As previously noted, all cancer signal detected results require confirmation because the test isn’t always correct. Similarly, absence of a cancer signal is not a guarantee that cancer is not present. Regardless of your results, you should speak with a healthcare provider in the context of your unique medical history, clinical signs and symptoms. The test is exclusively for active cancer detection and does not predict your future genetic risk for cancer.

Additional cancer-related resources and information:

To find answers to commonly asked questions about cancer and treatment, call Sarah Cannon’s help line, askSARAH at (844)-482-4812 to speak with a nurse who is specially-trained to help with your cancer questions.