Metastatic Cancer Diagnosis

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Metastatic cancer diagnosis is usually performed by a professional by examining the samples of the cells and tissues under the microscope. In some cases, the laboratory examinations of the DNA, RNA and proteins can assist the doctor to determine the presence of cancer cells. Diagnosis of cancer helps to decide the right treatment option for the patient. These tests are also helpful to find the other types of diseases in the cells. For instance, if the doctors are not certain of the present lump , they may take a sample of the tissues of the doubtful location and perform a test for cancer as well as for the germs that may cause metastatic cancer (such as human papilloma virus, HPV).

This procedure in which the sample of tissues is tested under a microscope is called as biopsy, and the sample of tissues is called as biopsy specimen. This testing is performed in the pathology lab. Malignant lumps (cancerous tumors) can be found in the radiology tests (imaging studies) or can be determined by physical examination. But, with all these processes it is essential to examine them under the microscope for the confirming the presence of cancer cells. All the lumps may not be malignant, since some tumors may be benign and not the cancerous tumors. A malignant tumor is capable to spread into the adjoining tissues and distant body structures as well, but a benign tumor is not able to spread at distant levels.

Different processes of metastatic cancer diagnosis:

There are a range of procedures that may be performed to diagnose the presence of cancerous cells in the body. Since, only one test is not sufficient for the conformation of cancer, various tests are conducted to reveal different factors. The tests are performed as per the type of the cancer and the noticeable symptoms.

Biopsy: In several cases cancerous cells are diagnosed by taking the sample from the infected area. In biopsy a sample is taken by removing some tissues from the suspicious location and it is observed under the microscope. If the patient has been diagnosed with cancer in the past as well, by examining your scan reports and imaging reports of the patient, the doctor can tell if the cancer was metastasized earlier. Your previous blood test reports can also help to give the assurance of the presence of cancer cells. Biopsy can be performed by 2 types:

  1. Needle biopsy- core needle biopsy and aspiration or fine needle biopsy
  2. Surgical bone biopsy

Blood tests:

In case of the presence of liver metastasis, an elevated routine blood test such as liver enzymes can be helpful. However, usually the blood tests are normal even the people are at advanced cancer stage.


There are several imaging tests that are helpful for metastatic cancer diagnosis. These tests help to reveal the presence of malignant tumor by the examination of the pictures of various body parts from inside. The type of imaging test depends on the type of the cancer and the present symptoms. Imaging tests involves:

CT scan (computed tomography): This test is used to scan the neck, head, abdomen, chest and pelvis. When performed with contrast, helps to identify the masses or lumps within the body part, liver, lungs, lymph nodes and other structures. Ultrasound: This helps to examine the presence of suspected lump in the abdominal cavity. It is a helpful tool to recognize the suspicious fluid in the abdomen.

Bone scan:

A radioactive tracer is used to trap the damaged spot of the bone. This procedure helps to examine the entire body, if any evidence of bone damage due to development of cancer may obtained. In case if the bones have some breakages due to damage, additional X- rays are preferred.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET scan): This procedure helps to identify the hypermetabolic activity that may take place at any location in the body of a cancer patient.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): This test uses magnets and radio waves and to produce an image of the damage areas.

Tumor markers:

There are certain blood tests that are conducted after the diagnosis of the disease. This technique is used to identify if the disease is in active or developing state. For example:

  • Ovarian cancer : CA - 125
  • Colon cancer : Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CE)
  • Human Chorionic Gonadotropin ( HCG)
  • Cancer of testes : Alpha-Feto-Protein ( AFP)
  • Prostate cancer : prostate specific antigen ( PSA)

Metastatic cancer diagnosis involves all the above techniques. Some techniques are standard and used usually, while some are new and used rarely.

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