Diagnostic Testing Services
Cancer (or suspected cancer) can be discovered several ways:
- With a routine screening exam, such as a colonoscopy (colon), a mammogram (breast) or a Pap smear (cervix)
- With a physical exam, done to discover the cause of pain or other symptoms
- With an x-ray taken for another reason, such as an injury
If cancer is found or suspected, further diagnostic testing is done. The type of test used depends on the type of cancer.
Imaging studies are used to “see” tumors and neighboring tissues. Among the imaging studies used to diagnose cancer are:
- CT scan (computerized tomography)
- MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging)
- PET scan (positron emissions tomography)
To learn more about each type of imaging study, visit our partners in cancer diagnosis, Oregon Imaging Centers.
Pathology studies are also done to determine whether and what kind of cancer cells are present. These are microscopic examinations of blood or tissue samples. To obtain tissue samples, a doctor will conduct a biopsy (removing tissues or cells from the body for analysis).
- Needle biopsy uses a narrow, hollow needle to collect a sample. This is typically done under local anesthesia.
- Surgical biopsy involves a larger cut and may be done under general anesthesia.
- Other types of examinations of internal organs may include biopsy. Examples are bronchoscopy (to examine the respiratory system) and colonoscopy (to examine the colon).