Cancer Diagnosis

The initial evaluation by the doctor includes a health history, physical examination and blood tests. Several other tests, depending on the location and the type of suspected cancer, may need to be done. These may include tissue biopsy, x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Specialty tests include:

  • Bone marrow aspiration and/or biopsy, a test to diagnose leukemia or abnormalities of the bone marrow. A needle is placed through a hard bone, into the bone marrow, and a tiny bone marrow specimen is removed with a syringe.
  • Lumbar puncture (LP, spinal tap), a test to examine cerebral spinal fluid. A needle is inserted into the back between two spinal bones to remove a sample of clear fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The fluid is examined under a microscope to look for cancer cells or infection. Medicines may be given through the needle if necessary.
  • Bone scan - An x-ray test that uses a short-lived radioactive dye injected intravenously to find tumors or other abnormalities in the bones. The test is not painful, but the patient must lie still for extended periods of time.

Other tests may need to be done once the diagnosis is made. Your doctor or nurse will explain the necessary tests or scans according to your treatment plan.