Diagnosing cancer begins with the complete evaluation of a patient. This usually requires a thorough history and physical examination along with diagnostic testing. Many tests are needed to determine whether a person has cancer, or if another condition (such as an infection) is mimicking the symptoms of cancer. Unfortunately, there is no single test that can accurately diagnose cancer.
Effective diagnostic testing is used to confirm or eliminate the presence of disease, monitor the disease process and to plan for and evaluate the effectiveness of treatment. In some cases, it is necessary to repeat testing when a person’s condition has changed, if a sample collected was not of good quality or an abnormal test result needs to be confirmed. Diagnostic procedures for cancer may include imaging, laboratory tests, tumor biopsy, endoscopic examination, surgery or genetic testing.
Diagnostic imaging is often necessary to diagnose or confirm the presence of cancer. Imaging is the process of producing valuable pictures of body structures and organs. It is used to detect tumors and other abnormalities, to determine the extent of disease, and to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment. Imaging may also be used when performing biopsies and other surgical procedures.
There are many different types of imaging tests used for diagnosing cancer. The tests a doctor selects depends on the type of cancer that is suspected; the person’s symptoms, age and medical condition; and the results of other tests. Some of the imaging tests that are used for diagnosing, staging and treatment monitoring are CT scans, MRI, mammography, nuclear medicine (PET CTs) and ultrasound.
Mercy Medical Center offers the full spectrum of cancer care. In fact, many people and departments may be involved in your care. Members of your health care team may include:
- Skilled radiation oncologists who use the latest linear accelerators available to assure accurate and precise treatment to minimize side effects and help cure many cancers. Our state-of-the-art CyberKnife® Radiosurgery Center offers new hope in the treatment of many tumors previously considered untreatable.
- Medical oncologists and cancer surgeons who are recognized among the top in their field.
- Oncology nurses certified to provide chemotherapy treatments and compassionate care and support to patients and their families.
- Expert pathologists who help physicians diagnose cancers and map out treatment plans.
- Pharmacy specialists who consult with physicians daily regarding appropriate choices of drug therapy for each individual.
- Physicians and pain clinicians who are experts in helping you control your pain.
- Social workers and pastoral counselors who can help you sort through financial concerns and spiritual needs.
- These and other dedicated professionals provide expert, personalized care treating patients with respect and compassion at every turn.