A new universal screening test may be able to do just that by using blood samples to detect up to 10 different types of cancer months or even years before the patient has any visible symptoms.
One of the biggest issues with cancer is that it is frequently diagnosed far too late.
Klein and his research team (Stanford University) have conducted a study, in which they found that the test could detect pancreatic, ovarian, liver, and gallbladder cancers. "We hope this test could save many lives".
The study examined 749 people without cancer and 878 who had been newly diagnosed with the disease, but not yet been treated. "Potentially this test could be used for everybody", said Klein. One of the issues is the blood-brain barrier that protects the brain.
Takabe noted that although the study included more than 1,600 patients, the number of patients with some types of cancers was quite small - for example, only about 10 patients in the study had ovarian cancer - which is another limitation of the study.
For other cancers, the blood test was less accurate.
However, most of the patients find out they have cancer when they start showing signs.
At the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncologists in Chicago, experts further discussed the concept and how it could help doctors in the future. But academics say it is much more sensitive than previous tests.
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It was less able to pick up stomach, uterine and early-stage low-grade prostate cancer.
More than 360,000 people in the United Kingdom are diagnosed with cancer each year, meaning that one person is told they have the disease every two minutes.
The new test has three parts, testing the whole genome for DNA fragments first, then searching for specific genetic mutations and finally DNA methylation - a process which changes the way genes work when someone has cancer.
"There is an unmet need globally for early detection tests for lung cancer that can be easily implemented by health care systems".
"This is potentially the holy grail of cancer research, to find cancers that are now hard to cure at an earlier stage when they are easier to cure", says Dr. Eric Klein of Cleveland Clinic's Taussig Cancer Institute.
"This particular test is really exciting but it is likely to be a few years before it is ready for clinical use".
Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, said "new techniques" such as cancer blood tests could "unlock enormous survival gains, as well as dramatic productivity benefits in the practice of medicine".