Exams and Test Descriptions

Learn about the tests doctors commonly use to look for and diagnose cancer, to help determine if it has spread, and to monitor it during treatment.

Testing Biopsy and Cytology Specimens for Cancer

Waiting to hear a possible cancer diagnosis can be very stressful. But a better understanding of the tests doctors use to diagnose and classify cancer may relieve some of your stress. It can also help you work with your doctors to make the best decisions about your treatment.

Imaging (Radiology) Tests

Doctors use imaging tests to make pictures (images) of the inside of your body. Imaging tests can be used in many ways, including to look for cancer, to find out how far it has spread, and to help determine if cancer treatment is working.

Mammograms and Other Breast Imaging Procedures

Mammograms are x-ray exams of the breast. They are most often used to screen for breast cancer in women who have no symptoms. Mammograms and other breast imaging tests can also be used in women who have breast symptoms, such as a lump or pain, or who have a suspicious change seen on a screening mammogram.

Tumor Markers

Tumor markers are substances that can be found in the body (usually in the blood or urine) when cancer is present. Along with other tests, tumor markers can be used to help show if cancer is present, to determine the type of cancer, and in some cases to help show if treatment is working. Some of the more common tumor markers are discussed here.

Endoscopy

Endoscopy is a medical procedure where a doctor puts a tube-like instrument into the body to look inside. There are many types of endoscopy, each of which is designed for looking at a certain part of the body. Here we provide a brief overview of the most common types of endoscopy, including what they are used for and what to expect when you have them.

FAQs for Colonoscopy

Colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy are screening exams for colorectal cancer. Here are some answers to questions you might have about these lifesaving tests.

For Women Facing a Breast Biopsy

Some women who have an abnormal mammogram or a lump in the breast may need to get a breast biopsy, where a doctor removes a small piece of breast tissue for testing. Here we explain what a breast biopsy is, how it's done, and what it might find.

Understanding Your Lab Test Results

When you have cancer it seems that someone is always taking blood for some kind of test. Here we talk about some of the most common types of blood tests and what they can tell the doctor about your health.