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Diagnostic Procedures for Cancer: Overview

What are diagnostic procedures for cancer?

When symptoms suggest cancer, your physician may request/perform any of the following procedures to help positively diagnose it:

  • a detailed medical history - family and personal
  • thorough physical examination
  • pelvic examination of the uterus, vagina, ovaries, bladder, and rectum
  • Pap test may be requested at the time of pelvic examination

Other diagnostic procedures that may be requested include:

  • imaging tests, such as:
    • x-ray
    • computed tomography (CT or CAT scan) - a non-invasive procedure that takes cross-sectional images of the brain or other internal organs; to detect any abnormalities that may not show up on an ordinary x-ray. The CT scan may indicate enlarged lymph nodes - a possible sign of a spreading cancer or of an infection.
    • radionuclide 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 organs, thereby detecting any abnormal areas or tumors.
    • ultrasound - an imaging technique that uses 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 non-invasive procedure that produces a two-dimensional view of an internal organ or structure, especially the brain and spinal cord. The MRI may show abnormal nodules in bones or lymph nodes - a sign that cancer may be spreading.
  • endoscopy - use of a very flexible tube with a lens or camera (and a light on the end), which is connected to a computer screen, allowing the physician to see inside the hollow organs, such as the bladder or uterus. Biopsy samples can be taken through the tube.
  • laboratory tests - to examine blood, urine, other fluids, or tumor tissue
  • biopsy - to remove a sample of the suspicious tissue for examination in a laboratory by a pathologist
  • thinprep - a Pap Test alternative - Approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Thinprep is a liquid-based procedure in which cells from the cervix are put into a vial of liquid instead of being "smeared" onto a slide. The liquid is then filtered and only the cervical cells are placed onto a slide for examination.

Once the cancer is diagnosed, an evaluation will be made to determine the extent (stage) of the cancer.

Click here to view the
Online Resources of Gynecological Health

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