Cancer Screening | Cancer Diagnosis

There are many ways to diagnose and screen for cancer. Some cancers can be diagnosed through imaging tests. Diagnosing other cancers may involve taking samples through biopsy. Browse the diagnostic screening tests below:

Cancer Screening Tests

More information on common diagnostic tests

The following are common screening and tests for diagnosing cancer, as outlined by the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s health information site:

  • Barium enema is a procedure where a barium dye is inserted into the rectum and colon. The barium coats the lining of the rectum and colon. The barium shows abnormalities when looked at with X-ray technology.

  • Biopsy is a test that takes samples of tissue and studies them for cancer cells. Biopsies are the most common way of diagnosing cancer and provide a definite diagnosis.

  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy takes a small portion of the liquid and solid parts of the bone marrow. The marrow is looked at under a microscope to check the type and stage of cancer.

  • Bone scan shows damage to your bones and helps determines how cancer started and spread. This imaging test also helps to show how well treatment is working.

  • Breast MRI makes an image of the inside of the breast. It can show tumors and help diagnose early stages of breast cancer. It may be used in addition to a mammogram.

  • Colonoscopy is an exam that views the large intestine. Cancer, infection and other illnesses can be diagnosed with colonoscopies.

  • Computed tomography scan (CT) is also called a CAT scan. It creates a 3D scan of the inside of the body using X-ray.

  • Digital rectal exam (DRE) allows the doctor to examine the lower rectum. The doctor puts a gloved finger into the rectum and uses the other hand to press on the stomach.

  • Endoscopy looks at the digestive tract. It has a flexible tube with a light and tiny camera attached.

  • Fecal occult blood tests find any blood in the feces, which can be a sign of colorectal cancer. This blood test can call for further testing to continue the diagnosis.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) creates a computer-generated image of the inside the body using magnets and radio waves.

  • Mammography (mammogram) is an imaging test specifically for X-raying the breast. The image provides a look inside the tissue to detect any tumors or other abnormalities.

  • Pap test (Pap smear) examines cervical cells and determines if they are cancerous or could become cancerous. Pap tests also check for human papillomavirus (HPV), which can lead to cervical cancer.

  • Positron emissions tomography and computed tomography scan (PET-CT) is a combination of a PET scan and a CT scan. PET-CT machines do both scans at the same time. PET scans use a liquid that goes in the blood and often attaches to cancerous tissue. CT scans evaluate tissues and organs inside the body.

  • Sigmoidoscopy examines the lower large intestine for abnormalities and finds polyps, which can sometimes lead to cancer if they are not treated.

  • Tumor marker tests evaluate the biomarkers in blood, urine or bodily tissue. Tumor markers can be found in cancerous cells and healthy cells as well.

  • Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to see inside the body. The sound waves create an image based on the tissue that absorbs or reflects sound. The ultrasound can find tumors and other abnormalities due to the different tissue type.

  • Upper endoscopy looks at the organs that make up the beginning of the gastrointestinal tract. An endoscope is put into the mouth and down the throat and can detect tumors or other health issues.

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