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Today, physicians have access to a broad range of methods for diagnosing cancer. As researchers learn more about the way cancer develops and spreads, they develop new diagnostic tools and refine existing methods.

If your primary care physician suspects you have cancer, he or she may order some tests to confirm the diagnosis. These tests can either be conducted either by your physician, by hospital laboratories or at BSW Oncology. If a positive diagnosis is made, you should seek a second opinion: some kinds of cancer can be hard for even the experts to diagnose properly.

The following are the tools used most often to diagnose cancer:


A physician removes a small tissue sample and examines it under a microscope for the presence of cancer cells.  Depending on a tumor's location, many biopsies can be performed on an outpatient basis under local anesthetic. 

Diagnostic Imaging

Technologists produce an internal picture of the body and its structures, using X-rays, CAT scans, ultrasound or MRIs.


A physician inserts a flexible plastic tube with a tiny camera on the end into the body, which provides a direct look at a suspicious area.

Blood Tests

Some tumors release a substance called a tumor marker, which ca n be detected in the blood.  Blood tests alone can be inconclusive, so most doctors will typically employ a second tool to confirm a cancer diagnosis.