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How is cancer diagnosed?

Residents of North Carolina may be interested to learn about how cancer is diagnosed. Although a lump may be found with imaging or during a physical exam, this evidence alone will not tell a doctor that the patient has cancer. Upon further testing, most tumors that grow in the body are found to be noncancerous.

If a lump is discovered in a patient's body, a doctor may determine whether or not the patient has cancer after performing a biopsy and looking at the biopsy specimen under a microscope. A biopsy is when a doctor takes a tissue sample from the tumor that is suspected of being cancerous. The process of obtaining a tissue sample and looking at it under a microscope is called pathology.

Other tests that are used for diagnosing cancer include looking at the proteins, DNA and RNA in a person's cells. In addition to establishing whether or not cancer is present in the body, these types of tests can help doctors to learn what treatment options would most benefit the patient. A tissue or cell sample may also be tested for other types of infections that can look like cancer. If a cancerous tumor is not diagnosed early, it can spread to other parts of the body.

A patient who is diagnosed with cancer early will have a much better chance of fighting off the disease than a patient who is diagnosed after it has been allowed to spread. In some cases, a doctor's failure to diagnose a patient with breast cancer or any other kind of cancer early enough can be grounds for a medical malpractice claim. Because every person's health challenges are unique, the information in this blog may not be true for every patient.

Source: Cancer.org, "How is cancer diagnosed?", October 01, 2014

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