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How is Cancer Diagnosed?

Photo by renjith krishnan via freedigitalsphotos

Several tools are involved in the process of ultimately
diagnosing cancer. These tools can be broken down into two main categories: screening and diagnostic testing. Screening is primarily used to detect potential
disease markers. Diagnostic testing is used to confirm or rule out the presence
of cancer, to monitor the progress of a tumor, and to understand the efficacy
of treatment. It is also used in order to confirm that your symptoms are not
the result of another condition. In order to arrive at a diagnosis, your doctor
may perform various tests, each one contributing unique information.

Laboratory Testing

Blood and urine tests are commonly used to detect certain
substances in the body. Your doctor can test for the presence and the amount of
glucose, proteins, enzymes, electrolytes, and hormones. These tests are
noninvasive but are not a definitive indicator that cancer exists. Your doctor
will use the results from these tests to rule out other possible causes for
your symptoms.

Liquid Biopsy

New technologies in cancer screening allow scientists to
analyze a blood sample for the presence of cells or pieces of DNA circulating
in the body that belong to a tumor. Liquid biopsy cancer tests are a noninvasive
technique used to detect and monitor cancer in its early stage, to monitor the
efficacy of treatment, and to detect whether cancer has returned. The advantage
of using a liquid biopsy instead of a traditional solid tissue tumor biopsy is
that doctors can obtain multiple samples overtime. This allows doctors to
understand if the tumor is responding to treatment or if there are any changes
in the behavior of the tumor.

Solid Tumor Biopsy

If necessary, your doctor will still obtain a sample of the
tumor itself through surgical techniques or using a needle or an endoscope (a scope that is inserted into
the body without the need for a surgical incision for example, through the
nose). Once the sample is collected, it is sent to a laboratory to be analyzed
for infections or other complications that may cause the tissue to grow
unexpectedly, in addition to being tested for cancerous cells.

Diagnostic Medical
Imaging

Imaging techniques can help doctors detect the presence of a tumor and see if
cancer has spread, and if so, to where and to what extent. There are various
types of imaging techniques used for diagnosis and tumor monitoring:

X-ray – An X-ray
machine uses small doses of electromagnetic radiation to generate images of the
bones. X-rays can be used to detect bone cancer and breast tumors.

Positron emission
tomography (PET) scan
– During a PET, your doctor will inject a dye into
your arm that is absorbed by the bodys organs and tissues that will show
abnormal tissue growth. A PET scan can be used to detect cancers such as breast
cancer, lung cancer, and brain tumors.

Computerized
tomography (CT) scan –
Many times, a PET scan is combined with a CT scan. A
CT scan uses an x-ray machine that moves around the body and computer
technology to produce detailed images of every part of the body, including fat
tissue and the blood vessels.

Magnetic resonance
imaging (MRI) scan –
An MRI scan uses a big magnet and computer technology
to generate images of the organs. These images can show abnormalities that may
not be visible using other imaging techniques. MRI imaging techniques are used
to detect tumors.

Talk to Your Doctor
About Your Diagnostic Process

Not every individual being tested for cancer will have the
same diagnostic process, meaning that you may have some diagnostic tests
performed that another individual will not. If your doctor believes you may
have cancer, he or she will make a decision regarding your diagnostic process
based on your symptoms and what is found in early laboratory testing.

 

Sources:

https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-conditions/cancer/cancer/cancer-diagnosis.html

https://www.cancer.org/treatment/understanding-your-diagnosis/tests/testing-biopsy-and-cytology-specimens-for-cancer/how-is-cancer-diagnosed.html

https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/diagnosis-staging/diagnosis

https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/diagnosis-staging

https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms?cdrid=779095

https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-tests/x/xray.html

http://www.healthline.com/health/x-ray#Purpose2

http://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/diagnosing-cancer/tests-and-procedures/positron-emission-tomography-and-computed-tomography-pet-ct-scans

http://www.cancercenter.com/treatments/pet-scan/

https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-tests/c/ct-scan.html

http://www.healthline.com/health/pet-scan#Uses2

http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/magnetic-resonance-imaging-mri

http://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/diagnosing-cancer/tests-and-procedures/types-endoscopy

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/in-depth/cancer-diagnosis/art-20046459

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Nora Charles is a freelance writer that has worked with many bloggers for several years now.

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