Making a cancer diagnosis can be challenging, as symptoms vary widely by cancer type, location and size. If your physician suspects that you may have cancer, he or she may order one or more tests to confirm the diagnosis. 

One of the most common diagnostic tests is a biopsy, during which a piece of tissue is carefully removed so that it may be screened by a pathologist. There are several types of biopsies, and your physician will determine which type is right for you based on the location of the tissue to be removed. These include a needle biopsy, which captures tissue in a syringe; a surgical biopsy, during which tissue is surgically removed through an incision in the skin; or a closed biopsy, a less-invasive surgical procedure utilizing microscopic cameras.

The biopsy process may also be used to collect fluids for testing, such as bone marrow in cases in which leukemia or lymphoma are suspected.

Other frequently ordered diagnostic tests include chest x-rays, CT scans and MRI’s. Blood tests, including liver function testing, may also be conducted.