A cancer diagnosis
can only be determined after the doctor has performed a screening
test. When the doctor has a suspicion of cancer, these tests help
ensure that the cancer diagnosis is correct. Then, subsequent tests
will determine whether the cancer has spread to other areas, a
procedure referred to as staging. The tests used to diagnose
cancer vary and generally include blood tests, imaging studies (such
as x-rays, computed tomography [CT], or magnetic resonance imaging [MRI])
as well as a biopsy.
A biopsy involves
a small piece of tissue being removed from the suspect area for
examination under a microscope. Sometimes a cancer diagnosis also
requires an excisional biopsy, in which all of the suspected tissues
are removed and examined. Also, biopsy of nearby lymph nodes is
frequently done to see if the cancer has spread.
If you suspect a
cancer diagnosis you should ask your physician some of the following
What type of
cancer do I have?
What stage is it
What is the
prognosis for people with this type of cancer in this particular
What are the
various treatment options and how do they affect my prognosis?
Am I eligible to
participate in any clinical trials?
What are the
various options for palliative care and end-of-life care if my
doctors decide that the type and stage my cancer means the treatment
is unlikely to alter the outlook?