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Treatments, Tests, and Procedures
Learn more about the specific medical tests and procedures used to diagnose and treat cancer.
A growing area of cancer research, called cancer genome research, compares genes found in tumors and genes found in healthy tissue in order to understand how these genes differ and which ones are important. To do this, researchers collect samples from all types of tumors to find out a tumor’s genetic “fingerprint” and then compare it to the fingerprints of healthy tissue from the same person. Different genes are involved in different tumor types, and understanding what genes are important to the development of cancer may lead to improvements in detecting, diagnosing, and treating cancer.
A multigated acquisition (MUGA) scan checks to see if your heart is pumping blood properly. Some people with cancer receiving chemotherapy may need to have this test during their cancer treatment.
A colonoscopy is a diagnostic examination used to look inside the entire large intestine, which plays an important role in the body’s ability to process waste. The colon makes up the first five to six feet of the large intestine, and the rectum makes up the last six inches, ending at the anus.
Cancer and cancer treatments may cause side effects that require the immediate attention of your doctor and health care team. In this article, learn about the signs and symptoms of infections, deep vein thrombosis (a potentially life-threatening blood clot), and tumor lysis syndrome (a condition that can cause organ failure)—all of which require an immediate call to your doctor.
When researching cancer treatments, you will likely come across advertisements for products or services that claim to prevent, treat, or cure cancer. The claims made on the Internet and on TV often sound like they are cures for cancer. However, before investing time and money in any of them, it’s important to evaluate the claims carefully and talk with your doctor.
Personalized medicine involves selecting treatments based on a person’s unique genetic makeup and the genetic makeup of the tumor. By performing more genetic tests and analysis, doctors may customize treatment to each patient’s needs.
For early-stage breast cancer, doctors generally recommend surgery to remove the tumor. Some women can choose between two types of surgery: a lumpectomy or mastectomy, although lumpectomy is not always a recommended option. To help women talk with their doctors about this decision, Cancer.Net spoke with Julie Gralow, MD.
To help oncologists integrate clinical trials into their practice, the American Society of Clinical Oncology recently made recommendations for the minimum standards and exemplary attributes of clinical trial sites. To learn what patients should know about exemplary clinical trial sites, Cancer.Net talked with Richard L. Schilsky, MD, in 2008. This article was updated in 2012.
A placebo is an inactive drug or treatment in a clinical trial and is often referred to as a “sugar pill.” A placebo-controlled trial compares a new treatment with a placebo; people who receive a placebo are called the control group. The use of placebos in cancer clinical trials is rare. Cancer.Net talked with Richard L. Schilsky, MD, in 2008 to learn more about the emerging use of placebos in cancer clinical trials. This article was updated in 2012.
A breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) exam is a diagnostic examination that uses magnetic fields to capture multiple images of the breast tissue, which are combined to create detailed, computer-generated pictures of your breasts. A breast MRI sometimes is used to diagnose and evaluate breast tumors. Under some circumstances, this test may better identify a small mass within a woman's breast than a mammogram or ultrasound, particularly for women with very dense (non-fatty) breast tissue.