In my experience as an RN helping care for cancer patients both in the hospital and at home, I have seen it happen time and again that patients struggle with a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness when given a diagnosis of cancer. By gathering basic information now, before you have a need for it, you will be one step ahead if you or your loved one should find themselves facing cancer. Diagnostic tests for cancer can seem frightening , however, considering one in four people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, a plan of action now could make the difference between life and death to you or someone you know!
You may have simply gone in to your doctor for an annual check-up and expected the usual admonishments to stop smoking, lose a few pounds and start an exercise program. When suddenly you see an expression on your doctor’s face that warns something different is about to take place.
In a quiet controlled manner he says there are a ‘few more diagnostic tests’ he wants to run, then begins asking about family members who may have had cancer.
As much as you may want to run and hide or panic, Don’t!
Listen carefully, take notes and pay attention.
The next few moments can set the foundation for your plan to recovery by finding out exactly what you are dealing with.
All cancer is not created equal.
The tests your doctor recommends will depend on the type of cancer he suspects. Some common diagnostic tests for cancer may include:
Physical exam, diagnostic imaging such as CT, MRI, X-rays, ultrasounds, and radionuclide scans.
A diagnostic test that is almost necessary to confirm a diagnosis of cancer is a biopsy.
In a biopsy, tissue is removed for examination under a microscope to determine the type and stage ( or how far along) the cancer has progressed. This is essential for proper and effective treatment. A biopsy is usually done one of three ways; endoscopy, needle biopsy, or surgical biopsy.
During an endoscopy, the doctor can look at areas inside the body through a thin, lighted tube, see what the tissue looks like and even insert small instruments through the tube to obtain tissue samples.
In a needle biopsy, the doctor takes a small tissue sample by inserting a needle into the abnormal (suspicious) area. This is often done with tissue masses containing fluid like substances.
A surgical biopsy is just what it sounds like. Depending on the location and size of the tumor, it may be done under local or general anesthesia. During surgical biopsy, the surgeon removes part or all of the tumor and sends the sample for further analysis.
There are a few common myths about having surgery to diagnose or remove cancerous tumors.
The most common fear is that the biopsy or any type of surgery will spread the cancer quicker than if it were left alone. While not 100% unfounded, this is a very rare occurrence. Doctors take very careful measures to prevent this from happening, even going so far as to take a small portion of the normal tissue surrounding a tumor, to reduce the chance that there has been any spreading.
Another rumor has been told for years is that simply allowing air to reach cancerous tissue speeds that rate at which it spreads–This is totally unfounded!
Remember the physician and other health care professionals are going to be a very important part of the team working to get you through a difficult time in the best way possible, it is in your best interest to remain an active part of the team and be informed concerning all aspects of your diagnostic, and treatment plans!
Know what it is you are fighting, then work with your health care team to approach it in the best way for your situation and circumstance!
* For this reason and to gain factual information before making decisions, it is important that patients discuss all diagnostic and treatment concerns with their doctors every step of the way!
* * These reports are not meant to replace any information your doctor has given you.
They are for informative purposes only. Always check with your physician for options and treatment solutions.
National Cancer Institute: US National Institute of Health.
www.cancer.org. June 6, 2007.
WrongDiagnosis.Com. Diagnostic Tests for Cancer .
June 6, 2007.