Diagnosing Cancer

Making a cancer diagnosis requires knowledge and expertise, as symptoms vary widely by cancer type, location and size. If your doctor suspects that you may have cancer, he or she will likely order one or more tests to confirm the diagnosis. At St. Vincent Healthcare Frontier Cancer Center, the most common tests to diagnose cancer include:

  • Biopsy: A biopsy is a procedure during which fluid or a piece of tissue is carefully removed from your body for screening by a pathologist. Some biopsies can be done in your healthcare provider’s office using a local anesthetic to numb the area from which the sample is taken. Others must be completed in a hospital setting and general anesthetic used for your comfort and safety.
  • Blood Tests: Your blood is an amazing part of your body, and has the ability to share a great deal of information. Testing your blood may be one of the first steps your doctor takes in determining a diagnosis, as your blood sample reveals how well your body and its organs are functioning. 
  • Diagnostic Imaging: Diagnostic imaging can be used to confirm—or rule out-- the presence of tumors or cancerous growths. Chest x-rays, for instance are used to provide information about your heart, lungs and other structures in your chest. Mammograms are type of diagnostic image used to screen for tumors in the soft tissues of the breast. 

Other types of imaging used for cancer include ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), PET scans and bone scans.

And what if the test result is positive? Your doctor may opt to perform additional tests to verify the diagnosis or evaluate how far the cancer has progressed. They will also meet with you to talk about their findings, answer questions you may have, and talk to you and your family about your individual care plan and treatment options.