Cancer patients undergo many different types of tests in order to accurately diagnose their disease, determine their prognosis, and monitor their cancer for progression or recurrence.
The term “diagnostic test” can be misleading, as these tests are not used only for diagnosing cancer, but also for monitoring cancer progression. There are many reasons for employing diagnostic tests depending on whether the disease is active or progressing, being treated, or in remission. Diagnostic tests may be used to:
Pathology Tests: Pathology tests involve microscopic evaluation of abnormal cells.
Diagnostic Imaging: Diagnostic imaging involves visualization of abnormal masses using high-tech machines that create images. Examples of diagnostic imaging include x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, positron emission tomography (PET) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and combined PET/CT scans.
Blood Tests: Blood tests measure substances in the blood that may indicate how advanced the cancer is or other problems related to the cancer.
Tumor Markers: Tumor marker tests detect substances in blood, urine, or other tissues that occur in higher than normal levels with certain cancers.
Genomics: Special laboratory evaluation of DNA involves the identification of the genetic make-up-the DNA-of the abnormal cells.