In this procedure, the use of an iodine-based contrast material, such as barium, is useful for making the organs visible on X-rays more clearly. One type of X-ray examination is mammography as a breast cancer screening test. Depending on the contrast method, the duration of the examination can take from 5 minutes to 1 hour.
The side effects of this cancer test include a burning sensation in the injection area, nausea, vomiting, and changes in the sense of taste.
Nuclear imaging can help doctors find the location and extent of cancer spread. There are several types of nuclear scans that can detect cancer. These are bone scans, PET scans, thyroid scans for thyroid cancer, MUGA (multigated acquisition) scans, and Gallium scans.
This cancer diagnostic test creates images based on body chemistry like other imaging tests, using liquid radionuclides.
That said, this nuclear scan is often unable to detect tumors that are very small in size.
The duration of the examination takes 20 minutes to 3 hours, with side effects including swelling and pain at the injection site and allergic reactions.
If the results of the X-ray are not clear, the doctor will recommend an ultrasound to find the location of the cancer. This scan uses high-frequency sound waves that pass through the body to produce images. In some cases, an ultrasound is also useful for differentiating between a cyst and ovarian cancer.
A doctor or technician conducts an ultrasound by applying a special liquid on the surface of the skin and attaching the transducer. They then insert this tool into the esophagus, rectum, or vagina.
That said, ultrasound images are not as detailed as CT or MRI scans, and sound waves also cannot penetrate the lungs and bones. An ultrasound is a safe test and has very little risk of side effects.
All tests for cancer screening through scanning are very helpful. But due to their limitations, your doctor may also perform other screening tests.
2. Endoscopic Procedures
How is cancer diagnosed? At times, your doctor may employ endoscopic procedures. An endoscopy is a medical procedure that inserts a tube-shaped instrument into the body to see what’s inside. There are several types of endoscopic procedures, such as:
- Bronchoscopy which aims to look for blockages in the airways such as tumors
- Colonoscopy, which is useful for finding out the cause of drastic weight loss, bleeding in the rectum, or changes in bowel habits
- Laparoscopy, which helps determine the cause of hip pain and take tissue samples in tumors for cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer
- Cystoscopy, which helps determine the presence of cancer in the bladder and urethra and guides the removal of small tumors in these areas
A biopsy is a procedure that takes a piece of tissue to examine your body cells. This test is very accurate and the result is a definite diagnosis of cancer. Therefore, a biopsy is often a combination of other cancer screening tests.