Investigations

Once you have been referred to a consultant, you will be asked for details of your medical history and your lifestyle. A number of basic tests may be carried out at the same time, such as blood tests and x-rays; and arrangements for biopsies and scans may be scheduled.

BIOPSY

This procedure may be carried out under local anaesthetic (where you remain awake) or occasionally general anaesthetic. This is dependant upon how accessible the potential cancer is and the consultants view on your tolerance of the procedure.

The surgeon may remove a piece of tissue from the suspicious area which will be examined by a microscope to determine whether it contains cancerous cells. If it does, it can show the type and grade (speed of growth) and possibly your overall prognosis (outlook). You may have stitches to close the site of the biopsy and may be prescribed painkillers.

A core biopsy, also known as a fine needle aspiration may be taken. This is a hollow needle, which is inserted to collect sample cells.

biopsy

SCANS

Scans can help diagnose the cancer; to find out how big the cancer is, whether it has spread to other parts of the body and determine the stage that the cancer is at, to help to find the most appropriate treatments. Scanning usually takes place in the hospital. A radiographer operates the machine. You will probably be asked to change into a gown, remove any jewellery and metal objects and lie on a couch. You will be expected to keep very still throughout the scan. The radiographer will be in touch with you throughout the scan. There are currently four different types of scan.

PET SCAN
PET (positron emission tomography) scanning involves an injection of a radiotracer (dye) about an hour before the scan. The dye helps to examine the chemical activity in specific parts of the body. The scanner rumbles in the background but is not especially noisy.

CT SCAN
This type of scan produces x-rays to take pictures from different angles. The pictures are analysed by a computer which creates an accurate picture of the abnormality and the size of any cancer.

ULTRASOUND SCAN
This type of scan is very similar to the scans used in pregnancy. It involves a hand-held computer mouse sized scanner being passed over parts of the body.

MRI SCAN
This scan uses electromagnetic rays to build an image of the body. This type of scan can be very noisy and claustrophobic. You may be given earplugs or, in certain hospitals, encouraged to bring in a music CD or similar to be played whilst you are in the scanner.

CT Scan Ultrasound Scan MRI Scan