Common cancer tests

Biopsy

For many types of cancer a biopsy is the only way to make a definite cancer diagnosis.

This medical procedure gives the most accurate analysis of tissue. Doctors will often recommend a biopsy after an imaging study, such as an x-ray, has identified a possible tumor. During the biopsy a small amount of tissue is removed so it can be examined under a microscope by a pathologist (a doctor specialising in interpreting laboratory tests).The pathologist determines whether the tissue contains a tumor and whether this tumor is benign (non cancerous) or malignant (cancerous, meaning that it can spread to other parts of the body).

The least invasive procedures require no recovery time so your child will be able to go back to normal activities immediately after the procedure. If your child has a surgical biopsy, they will be observed after the procedure, and may need a recovery period in hospital.

MRI Scan

An MRI is an imaging test that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to produce detailed, computer-generated pictures of organs and tissue inside the body, including the brain and spinal column. An MRI can be used to:

  • Find a tumour and learn more about the stage of cancer (the size and location of the tumour)
  • Determine if a tumour is benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous)
  • Help doctors make a treatment plan, such as surgery or radiation therapy
  • Monitor a tumor’s response to treatment

A special dye may be used to help create a clearer picture.

While lying on a movable exam table, your child will slide through a hole in the center of the MRI machine and remain still until the scan is over. (You’ll be able to hold your child’s hand throughout the procedure).

Tumour Marker Tests

Tumour markers are substances found at higher than normal levels in the blood, urine, or body tissue of some people with cancer.

bacteriaTesting for tumour markers can indicate the presence of cancer and help doctors make treatment decisions. They are commonly used to:

Confirm the diagnosis. Tumour markers may be used to confirm the results of other tests and procedures.

Predict prognosis. Tumour markers can help medics to predict the cancer’s response to treatment, as well as a child’s chance of recovery.

Guide treatment decisions.  Some tumour markers help doctors decide whether to add chemotherapy or immunotherapy.

Ultrasound
  • An ultrasound is an imaging test that uses high-frequency sound waves to locate a tumour inside the body.
  • During an ultrasound, a special hand-held device is placed on or inside the body and moved around; images of internal organs appear on a computer screen.
  • Your child can go back to their usual activities as soon as the ultrasound has finished.

Ultrasound is also used to help a doctor perform a biopsy (the removal of a small amount of tissue for examination under a microscope) by showing a tumor’s exact location in the body.

Getting your results

A straightforward result can be given two to three days after the biopsy, a more complicated result can take up to 10 days due to the need for additional testing on the tissue.

Ask your child’s consultant when you will receive the results of all the cancer tests and who will explain these results to you.

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