Diagnosis of Cancer

There is a wide array of tools that are used to diagnose cancer. The most common methods are:

where samples of the tumor are removed during surgery or during less invasive procedures and examined under a microscope for presence of cancer cells.

Endoscopy -- a flexible plastic tube with a camera on its end is inserted into body organs and cavities taking a picture of the suspicious area. There are various types of scopes each used for a specific area. For instance, a laparoscope is used for the abdominal cavity whilst a colonoscope is used for the colon.

Diagnostic imagining -- this includes methods such as MRIs, x-rays, CAT scans, ultrasounds, and PET scans that are separately or additionally used to locate the locations and extent of the cancer.

Blood tests -- Some tumor marketers (i.e. substances related by tumors) can be indicated in the blood. Higher than normal prostrate specific antigen levels for instance can indicate cancer. However, blood tests by themselves are inconclusive (MD Anderson Cancer Center).

Staging of cancer

Staging is the process of discovering the extent of cancer in the body and its localization. This tells the physician the stage of growth that the specific cancer is in order to predict the person's diagnosis and to plan the treatment. Early stage breast cancer, for instance, may just need surgery and radiation, whereas a more advanced stage may need chemotherapy. Knowing the stage also helps doctors predict the course of the cancer.

The stage is generally based on three main factors that are called T, N, and M. T refers to the size of the primary (or original tumor) and analysis of whether or not it has spread into neighboring tissue. M refers to whether or not the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes; whereas m refers to the situation of the cancer affecting distant areas of the body.

Some cancers, depending on their body origin, are not staged this way. For instance, leukemia impacts the blood and bone marrow and does so throughout the body therefore the T, N, M staging is irrelevant. Similarly, too, Cerebral-based cancers only spread to other parts of the brain not to lymph nodes or distant parts of the body; hence they too are not staged with this acronym.

Staging occurs at the time of diagnosis and is represented by two types: (1) clinical staging -- that estimates the extent of cancer based on the exams and tests used and (2) Pathologic staging - that employs information extracted during surgery in order to determine the type and extent of cancer.

Other factors that determine the stage include: Grade (degree of abnormality of the cancer); cell type of cancer; tumor location; and tumor marker levels.

The stage of a cancer remains constant over time even if the cancer progresses, returns, or seems to be in remission. Even when restaging occurs (i.e. when post-treatment tests are employed to discover the extent of the effect), does the former staging rarely, if ever, change (American Cancer Society)

Complications of cancer

Cancer may impact the patient in numerous ways ranging from physical, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual functioning and extending to his vocational life where he may lose his job as a result as well as effecting his family and friends.

Cancers may also cause theā€¦