Tests and scanners
A small piece of tissue or a sample of cells is extracted and examined under a microscope. There are many different types of biopsy. Biopsy samples provide doctors with information on the type of cancer a patient has.
Blood samples are sometimes taken to get insight on a patient's overall state of health and how well the liver and kidneys are working. Doctors sometimes use specific blood tests to diagnose and control cancer.
Bone marrow is the spongy middle part of the bones, where all of our blood cells are made. A small sample of the patient's bone marrow is taken from the back part of the hip bone (pelvis) or, sometimes, from the sternum. This sample is then sent to a laboratory where it can be examined under a microscope to see if it contains abnormal cells.
Bone scan (bone scintigraphy)
This test can detect areas of abnormality in the bones. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into the patient's vein and then the bone scan is performed two or three hours later.
Colonoscopy is a way of examining the lining of the intestine from the inside. A colonoscope—a small camera and light attached to a thin, flexible tube—is inserted into the patient's large intestine. This procedure is carried out in order to obtain photographs and tissue samples from the mucosa of the intestine. Colonoscopies may be performed to detect colon cancer or to aid in the diagnosis of colon cancer if the patient is experiencing symptoms.
A colposcopy provides detailed images of the cervix using a specially adapted microscope called a colposcope. The colposcope acts as a magnifying class, allowing your health-care provider to clearly examine the entire cervix. You may have a colposcopy if your pelvic exam comes back with abnormal results or if you are having symptoms that may be indicative of cervical cancer.
A CT scan uses x-rays to create a three-dimensional image of the inside of the body. You may receive contrast dye, either orally or via injection. Contrast dye can make it possible to see certain parts of the body more clearly. The procedure takes about 30 minutes and in painless.
Cystoscopy examines the bladder. Before the exam, you will be given a local anesthetic to numb the urethra. A cystoscopy—a camera and light attached to a thin tube—is inserted into the urethra. The procedure should take just a few minutes.
During this procedure, an endoscope—a camera attached to one end of a thin, flexible tube—is used to obtain images of the inside of the esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestines. The endoscope is also equipped with a small cutting instrument, allowing doctors to biopsy any abnormal area. Gentle air pressure may be fed into the area of interest so that your doctor can more easily examine certain parts.
You may be given a sedative before the procedure in order to help you relax and induce sleepiness.
Lumbar puncture is a procedure in which a hollow needle is inserted between the bones of the lower back. It can be used to obtain a sample of the patient's cerebrospinal fluid for subsequent analysis. Lumbar puncture is also used to inject medication directly into the cerebrospinal fluid or to monitor the fluid's pressure.
Mammography is a low-radiation x-ray of the breast tissue. The test can be used for early detection of breast cancer. You will be asked to remove your clothes from the upper part of your body, including your brassiere. The radiology technician will then position you so that each breast is correctly placed in the x-ray machine. A transparent plastic plate will be softly pressed against your breasts to make them flat.
Breast tissues must be temporarily flattened in this way so that they remain still, thus allowing the radiology technicians to obtain the clearest possible image using the lowest possible dose of radiation. Most women find this compression uncomfortable, and some even feel pain for a short period of time. You will have to remain motionless for at least one minute while the x-ray is being taken. In general, two mammograms are taken of each breast from different angles.
You may have a mammogram as part of cancer screening or because you show symptoms that must be investigated.
This test uses a large magnet and radio waves to construct a detailed image of certain areas of your body. You may be given an injection of contrast dye in one of your veins to improve the quality of the images taken. This test is painless and takes about 30 minutes. We have more detailed information about MRIs available at your disposal.
PET scans measure the activity of cells in different parts of the body. The procedure can be used to determine whether a tumor is cancerous or not, if it is growing, and if it has spread to other parts of the body.
This technique combines CT, which takes a series of x-ray images which come together to form a 3-D image, and PET technology. A PET scan uses low-dose radiation to measure cell activity in different parts of the body.
A PET-CT scan offers doctors more detailed information about the part of the body that is being studied. Patients may have to travel to a specialist center to undergo this test. Patients must refrain from eating for 6 hours before a PET-CT scan, although they may be permitted to drink.
A small amount of radioactive material is injected into the patient's vein, normally through the arm. The radiation dose administered to the patient is very low. The procedure begins at least one hour afterward and takes between 30 and 90 minutes.
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein that is produced by the prostate gland and is naturally present in the bloodstream. A blood sample may be taken to measure PSA levels. Elevated PSA may be the result of non-cancerous conditions such as swelling of the prostate, or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). However, abnormally high PSA levels may be a sign of prostate cancer. You may be recommended to have a PSA test if you have symptoms that may be caused by prostate cancer.
Ultrasound uses sound waves to create an image of our inner organs. After a gel is spread over your skin, a small device is moved across the area. These examinations are painless.
X-rays are used to obtain images of the inside of our bodies. Ruptures or tears of the bones and joints may show up on x-ray images. X-rays may also depict changes occurring in other tissues and organs such as the lungs or breasts.
There are different types of x-rays. Some involve the use of a camera, while others require computers to produce digital images. Some x-ray procedures are barium x-rays. These x-rays use a chemical substance called barium which, when administered into the body, clearly shows differences in radiographic images. Other x-rays are performed after contrast medium is injected intravenously and can show different parts of the body in great detail.