Prevention and early detection are the most important cancer-fighting tools. Research suggests that up to 35% of cancer related deaths could be avoided if more people would undergo regular cancer testing and screening procedures.
Many cancer tests are incapable of providing diagnostic results; instead, they indicate whether or not a patient should undergo more in-depth evaluation. For example, a mammogram may reveal a lump (mass of tissue) in the breast, but it cannot determine whether or not the lump is cancerous or benign (non-cancerous).
A histological (microscopic) analysis of tissues from the lump is required to definitively diagnose cancer.
Types of Cancer Tests
After a series of basic physical examinations, the following tests are commonly used to definitively diagnose a cancer:
The anti-malignin antibody test (AMAS) is an early-detection tool for many types of cancer. The test recognizes the anti-malignin antibody, a cancer-causing antibody, in human serum. Anti-malignin is benign in most humans but can become more concentrated during cancer’s early stages.
In a biopsy, a group of cells or an entire piece of tissue is removed for laboratory examination. The histological (microscopic) examination of biopsied tissue is the most effective and common method of cancer diagnosis. Most biopsies are performed in a doctor’s office with a needle and syringe, requiring no anesthesia. Biopsying tissues located deep within the body may necessitate surgery.
In a Bone Scan, a radioactive substance (tracer) is injected into a vein, after which it will ultimately travel into the bones. Once the tracer has reached the bones, a special camera (gamma) is used to photograph the interaction between the radioactive tracer and the inside of the bones. Photographing this interaction allows physicians to analyze overall bone function.
COMPUTERIZED AXIAL TOMOGRAPHY (CAT) SCAN
This imaging test uses a computer to analyze the results of multiple x-rays, generating cross-sectional images of the body’s internal structures. Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT) Scans are more commonly referred to as CT scans, or computerized tomography.
ENDOSCOPIC ULTRASOUND (EUS) IMAGING
EUS imaging combines an endoscopy procedure with ultrasound technology to produce a detailed, cost-effective image of the gastrointestinal tract.
- Endoscopy: This procedure involves the insertion of a long flexible tube into the mouth or anus. The tube is called an endoscope.
- Ultrasound: Ultrasound technology is the use of high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the body’s internal structures. Ultrasound is similar to SONAR technology, which has been used for many years to detect structures under water.
Traditional ultrasound transmits sound waves through the body from an external location. In an endoscopic ultrasound, sound waves are transmitted through the body from the tip of the endoscope. Transmitting sound waves from within the body produces a much more detailed image. Learn more about the Endoscopic Ultrasound.
MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING (MRI) TESTING
An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging Testing) test uses a powerful magnetic field with radio frequency pulses to produce detailed images of the body’s internal structures. This imaging test is non-invasive and, unlike CT scans, it does not use harmful ionizing radiation to produce an image. Furthermore, MRI testing almost always reveals a more detailed image than a CT scan, ultrasound, or traditional x-ray.
POSITRON EMISSION TOMOGRAPHY (PET) SCANS
In a PET scan (Positron Emission Tomography Scans), a small amount of a radioactive substance (tracer) is injected into a vein. The tracer travels through the bloodstream and is absorbed by certain organs and tissues. Once absorbed, a series of x-rays are captured and analyzed by a computer, producing an image of the body’s internal structures. Tracers have been developed to interact with specific organs and tissues, allowing PET scans to target certain diseases and locations throughout the body.
PROSTATE-SPECIFIC ANTIGEN (PSA) TESTING
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein generated by the cells in the prostate gland. In a PSA test (Prostate-Specific Antigen Testing), a physician will take a blood sample, and the amount of PSA in the blood will be evaluated in a laboratory. High levels of PSA in the blood may indicate the presence of a prostate tumor.
Thermography, or thermal imaging (Thermography Imaging), is a type of imaging test that captures light in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum. The amount of infrared light emitted by an object increases with temperature. Because cancerous tissues grow faster than normal tissues, they require an ever-increasing supply of nutrients. This nutrient demand stimulates blood circulation around cancerous tissues, creating heat and giving off infrared light.