Diagnostic Tests for Cancer
Cancer: Diagnostic Tests
The list of diagnostic tests
mentioned in various sources as
used in the diagnosis of Cancer
- Tests depend on the specific type of cancer but some types of tests are common
- Physical exam
- Imaging - used to see the tumor or its related damage.
- Pathology tests - this is the analysis of biopsy tissue.
- Other tests depend on the specific type of cancer
Home Diagnostic Testing
These home medical tests may be relevant to Cancer:
- Colon & Rectal Cancer: Home Testing
- Cancer-Related Home Testing:
- more tests »
Tests and diagnosis discussion for Cancer:
Cancer: NWHIC (Excerpt)
A biopsy is the only sure way to know whether a
medical problem is cancer. In a biopsy, the doctor removes a sample of
tissue. The tissue is examined under a microscope to check for cancer
cells. (Source: excerpt from Cancer: NWHIC)
What You Need To Know About Cancer -- An Overview: NCI (Excerpt)
In routine physical exams, the doctor looks for anything
unusual and feels for any lumps or growths. Specific screening
tests, such as lab tests, x-rays, or other procedures, are
used routinely for only a few types of cancer.
Breast. A screening mammogram
is the best tool available to find breast cancer before
symptoms appear. A mammogram is a special kind of x-ray
image of the breasts. Breast cancer screening has been shown
to reduce the risk of dying from this disease. The National
Cancer Institute recommends that women in their forties and
older have mammograms on a regular basis, every 1 to 2
Cervix. Doctors use the Pap
test , or Pap smear, to screen for cancer of
the cervix. For this test, cells are collected from the
cervix. The cells are examined under a microscope to detect
cancer or changes that may lead to cancer.
Colon and rectum. A number of screening tests are
used to find colon and rectal (colorectal) cancer. If a
person is over the age of 50 years, has a family medical
history of colorectal cancer, or has any other risk factors
for colorectal cancer, a doctor may suggest one or more of
Sometimes tumors in the colon or rectum can bleed. The fecal
occult blood test checks for small amounts of blood
in the stool.
The doctor sometimes uses a thin, lighted tube called a
to examine the rectum and lower colon. Or, to examine the
entire colon and rectum, a lighted instrument called a colonoscope
is used. If abnormal areas are seen, tissue can be removed
and examined under a microscope.
enema is a series of x-rays of the colon and rectum.
The patient is given an enema with a solution that contains
barium, which outlines the colon and rectum on the
rectal exam is an exam in which the doctor inserts a
lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel for
Although it is not certain that screening for other cancers
actually saves lives, doctors also may suggest screening for
cancers of the skin, lung, and oral cavity. And doctors may
offer to screen men for prostate or testicular cancer, and
women for ovarian cancer.
Doctors consider many factors before recommending a
screening test. They weigh factors related to the individual,
the test, and the cancer that the test is intended to detect.
For example, doctors take into account the person's age,
medical history and general health, family history, and
lifestyle. The doctor pays special attention to a person's
risk for developing specific types of cancer. In addition, the
doctor will assess the accuracy and the risks of the screening
test and any followup tests that may be necessary. Doctors
also consider the effectiveness and side effects of the
treatment that will be needed if cancer is found.
People may want to discuss any concerns or questions they
have about screening with their doctors, so they can weigh the
pros and cons and make informed decisions about having
screening tests. (Source: excerpt from What You Need To Know About Cancer -- An Overview: NCI)
What You Need To Know About Cancer -- An Overview: NCI (Excerpt)
If symptoms are present, the doctor asks about the person's
medical history and performs a physical exam. In addition to
checking general signs of health, the doctor may order various
tests and exams. These may include laboratory tests and imaging
procedures. A biopsy
is usually necessary to determine whether cancer is
Blood and urine tests can give the doctor important
information about a person's health. In some cases, special
tests are used to measure the amount of certain substances,
called tumor markers, in the blood, urine, or certain tissues.
Tumor marker levels may be abnormal if certain types of cancer
are present. However, lab tests alone cannot be used to
Images (pictures) of areas inside the body help the doctor
see whether a tumor is present. These pictures can be made in
X-rays are the most common way to view organs and bones
inside the body. A computed
tomography (CT or CAT) scan is a special kind of
imaging that uses a computer linked to an x-ray machine to
make a series of pictures.
scanning , the patient swallows or receives an
injection of a radioactive substance. A machine (scanner)
measures radioactivity levels in certain organs and prints a
picture on paper or film. The doctor can detect abnormal areas
by looking at the amount of radioactivity in the organs. The
radioactive substance is quickly eliminated by the patient's
body after the test is done.
is another procedure for viewing areas inside the body.
High-frequency sound waves that cannot be heard by humans
enter the body and bounce back. Their echoes produce a picture
called a sonogram .
These pictures are shown on a monitor like a TV screen and can
be printed on paper.
In MRI ,
a powerful magnet linked to a computer is used to make
detailed pictures of areas in the body. These pictures are
viewed on a monitor and can also be printed.
A biopsy is almost always necessary to help the doctor make
a diagnosis of cancer. In a biopsy, tissue is removed for
examination under a microscope by a pathologist .
Tissue may be removed in three ways: endoscopy ,
needle biopsy, or surgical biopsy.
During an endoscopy, the doctor can look at areas
inside the body through a thin, lighted tube. Endoscopy
allows the doctor to see what's going on inside the body,
take pictures, and remove tissue or cells for examination,
In a needle biopsy, the doctor takes a small
tissue sample by inserting a needle into the abnormal
A surgical biopsy may be excisional
or incisional .
In an excisional biopsy, the surgeon removes the entire
tumor, often with some surrounding normal tissue. In an
incisional biopsy, the doctor removes just a portion of the
tumor. If cancer is present, the entire tumor may be removed
immediately or during another operation.
Patients sometimes worry that having a biopsy (or any other
type of surgery for cancer) will spread the disease. This is a
very rare occurrence. Surgeons use special techniques and take
many precautions to prevent cancer from spreading during
surgery. For example, if tissue samples must be removed from
more than one site, they use different instruments for each
one. Also, a margin of normal tissue is often removed along
with the tumor. Such efforts reduce the chance that cancer
cells will spread into healthy tissue.
Some people may be concerned that exposing cancer to air
during surgery will cause the disease to spread. This is not
true. Exposure to air does not cause the cancer to spread.
Patients should discuss their concerns about the biopsy or
other surgery with their doctor.
When cancer is diagnosed, the doctor will want to learn the
or extent, of the disease. Staging
is a careful attempt to find out whether the cancer has spread
and, if so, to which parts of the body. Treatment decisions
depend on the results of staging. The doctor may order more
laboratory tests and imaging studies or additional biopsies to
find out whether the cancer has spread. An operation called a
can help the doctor find out whether cancer has spread within
the abdomen. During this operation, a surgeon makes an
incision into the abdomen and removes samples of tissue. (Source: excerpt from What You Need To Know About Cancer -- An Overview: NCI)
Diagnosis of Cancer: medical news summaries:
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are relevant to diagnosis of Cancer:
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