Medical tests to confirm cancer

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cancer tests

The reason to visit a cancer center or oncology clinic may due to the presence of concerning symptoms or screening tests found some abnormality. However, it is always suggested to visit a specialized doctor who is the right person to decide the requirement of a further diagnostic test or some other causes involved in abnormal findings or symptoms occurrence.

cancer testsIn the beginning, the doctor usually has a detailed conversation with the patient regarding personal and family medical history followed by physical examination. Depending upon the physical finding and conversation along with checking the screening test report (if any), the doctor may recommend lab tests, scans, or other tests or procedures including biopsy which provide a confirmatory result for cancer detection. Following are the medical tests conducted for cancer confirmation:

Laboratory tests

The abnormality may be low or high levels of certain parameters in our biological system can be an indication of cancer. Therefore, to detect these signs of cancer, certain lab tests like blood, urine, or other body fluids that measures can help to diagnose the condition. But these laboratory tastings cannot confirm cancer findings. But the laboratory tests are essential to estimate signs of cancers and are usually recommended for almost every case as an initial diagnostic procedure.

Some lab tests involving blood or tissue samples are also conducted for detecting tumor markers. Cancer cells or some other adjoining cells are produced some specific substances which are termed tumor markers. However, normal cells can also produce tumor markers, but in a limited amount, whereas, cancer cells produced a significant amount of the tumor markers. For example, CA-125 is considered a tumor marker, as its level becomes higher than the normal value, particularly in ovarian cancer. Apart from this, cancer in the endometrial, fallopian tube, pancreas, stomach, esophagus, colon, liver, breast, and lung may also cause a higher level of CA-125. An elevated level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) may be a sign of prostate cancer.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests are performed at the site of the body where the doctor assumes that the tumor may present. The imaging tests help the doctor to check the presence of a tumor. Different types of imaging tests are CT scan, MRI, Nuclear scan, Bone scan, PET scan, Ultrasound, and X-ray.


A biopsy is a confirmatory test for cancer diagnosis. In a biopsy, the doctor removes a tissue sample. A microscopical analysis along with other tests is conducted by the pathologist to check whether the tissue is cancerous or not. The biopsy report is made by a qualified pathologist who can provide a detailed diagnosis.

Pathology reports play an important role in cancer diagnosis. The doctor also prepares a treatment plan depending upon the findings in the biopsy report. Different biopsy procedures are available for sample collection. These are as follows:

Needle biopsy: in this process needle is inserted into a particular site to collect the tissue sample or fluid. This process is used for bone marrow aspiration, spinal taps, certain types of liver, breast, and prostate biopsies.

Biopsy with endoscopy: An endoscope, a lighted thin tube is used by doctors to internal parts of the body. An endoscope is inserted inside the body through the natural opening of the body like the mouth, or anus. During the examination, finding any abnormal tissue, the doctor will collect the abnormal tissue parts along with surrounding normal tissue by using an endoscope. Different types of endoscopy are colonoscopy, bronchoscopy, gastro endoscopy, etc.

In a colonoscopy, the endoscope is inserted through the anus to examine the colon and rectum. Finding any polyps is removed by a doctor for further testing.

In bronchoscopy, the endoscope is inserted through the mouth or nose and goes down to the throat to examine the trachea, bronchi, and lungs.

In gastro endoscopy, the endoscope is inserted through the mouth or nose and goes down to the throat to examine the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the duodenum.

Surgical biopsy: During surgery, if a surgeon finds abnormal tissue growth at the site of surgery, then he/ she removes abnormal cells for further examination. Surgical biopsies are two types: excisional and incisional.

In an excisional biopsy, entire abnormal cells are completely removed along with surrounding normal cells. Whereas, in an incisional biopsy, a part of the abnormal area is removed.


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