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Diagnostic Procedures for Cancer: Overview
What are diagnostic procedures for cancer?
When symptoms suggest cancer, your doctor may request or perform any of the following procedures to help diagnose it:
A detailed medical history--family and personal
Thorough physical exam
Pelvic exam of the uterus, vagina, ovaries, bladder, and rectum (women only)
Pap test at the time of pelvic exam (women only)
Rectal exam of the prostate and rectum (men only)
Other diagnostic procedures that may be requested include:
Imaging tests, such as:
Computed tomography (CT or CAT scan). A noninvasive diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-ray and computer technology to produce detailed images (often called slices) of the body. The CT scan may show tumors or indicate enlarged lymph nodes--a possible sign of a spreading cancer or of an infection.
Radionuclide or nuclear medicine scan. An imaging scan in which a small amount of radioactive substance is injected into the vein. A machine measures levels of radioactivity in certain tissues or organs, thereby detecting any abnormal areas or tumors. Some examples are bone scans, PET scans, thyroid scans, and gallium scans.
Ultrasound. An imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce an image on a monitor of the abdominal organs, such as the uterus, liver, and kidneys.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A noninvasive procedure that produces detailed views of an internal organ or structure, especially the brain and spinal cord, without the use of X-rays. The MRI may show abnormal nodules in bones or lymph nodes--a sign that cancer may be spreading.
Endoscopy. Use of a flexible tube with a lens or tiny camera (and a light on the end), which is connected to a computer screen, allowing the doctor to see inside the hollow organs, such as the esophagus, stomach, intestines, bladder, or uterus. Biopsy samples (tiny pieces of tissue) can be taken through the tube for further evaluation.
Lab tests. These are done to examine blood, urine, other fluids, or tumor tissue from a biopsy.
Biopsy. This is done to remove a sample of the suspicious tissue for examination in a lab by a pathologist. Biopsy can be done wiht several different procedures depending on the location of the tumor and size. Endoscopy, needle biopsy with image guidance, and surgical biopsy are a few examples.
For most types of cancer, exams and imaging tests might suggest a person has cancer, but a biopsy is usually needed to be sure of the diagnosis.
Once the cancer is diagnosed, an evaluation will be made to determine the extent (stage) of the cancer. This is often done with some of the imaging tests described above.
Winchester Medical Center provides cutting-edge care, close to home, for patients who have cancer. Our fully-accredited cancer program offers a comprehensive range of services to diagnose, treat and support patients and their families.
While sophisticated equipment and high-tech procedures are used to fight cancer, they are no substitute for the understanding and encouragement that the staff provides. The professionals affiliated with our cancer program are highly trained, caring people who understand the emotional as well as physical problems that may be associated with cancer and its treatments.
Click on any of the links below to learn more.
Oncology Surgery Specialists
Accredited Breast Care Program
- Comprehensive, multidisciplinary care for patients with breast disease, from evaluation through treatment and follow-up care.
Medical Imaging and Interventional Radiology
The multidisciplinary staff consists of board-certified physicians, oncology certified nurses, board-certified radiation therapists, physicists and dosimetrists.
Winchester Medical Center's cancer program has earned three-year accreditation from the Commission on Cancer, a program administered by the American College of Surgeons.
Read our latest Message from Cancer Services
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to read an article about our cancer program from our Valley Healthlink magazine.