Treatments, Tests, and Procedures
Learn more about the specific medical tests and procedures used to diagnose and treat cancer.
Donated umbilical cord blood can be used to treat people with life-threatening diseases including leukemia, other types of cancer, and immune and genetic disorders. Learn about the importance of umbilical cord blood, public versus private use, and how to become an umbilical cord blood donor.
Each year, thousands of people with life-threatening diseases affecting bone marrow function, such as leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, aplastic anemia, and genetic and immune system disorders, are in need of a bone marrow (or stem cell) transplantation. In many cases, the bone marrow transplant represents a patient's only chance at survival and may even offer a cure. Learn how to register as a bone marrow donor.
A person may undergo anesthesia for a number of reasons. People living with cancer can expect to receive anesthesia for some diagnostic procedures, such as colonoscopies and upper endoscopies, as well as for surgical procedures. Derived from the Greek word “anaisthesis,” meaning without sensation, anesthesia allows a patient to undergo a procedure without feeling pain and other sensations. In some cases, it makes the patient unconscious.
Angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels. This process regularly occurs during growth and development in children but happens less often in adults. For example, angiogenesis occurs during the healing of a deep cut or after menstruation. Otherwise, angiogenesis in adults is usually part of a disease process such as cancer.
Until recently, cancer treatment was largely based on the location in the body where the tumor began, such as the lung or breast. Now, cancer treatment increasingly depends on specific factors of a person’s tumor, such as gene mutations (changes) or proteins that are often characteristic of cancer cells, regardless of the original location of the cancer.
The field of pharmacogenomics (also called pharmacogenetics) studies how our inherited genes affect the way our bodies process and respond to drugs, which can make these drugs more or less effective and safe. A drug may act differently in one person than in another person taking the same drug for the same condition. For instance, some people may experience severe side effects from a drug, while others may not, even when given comparable doses of the drug.
After a biopsy (the removal of a small amount of tissue), the tissue sample (called a specimen) must be processed and examined under a microscope before a definite diagnosis can be made.
The fecal occult blood test (FOBT) is a diagnostic examination used to detect blood in the feces (stool). Blood in the stool may be a sign of colorectal cancer or other problems such as polyps (growths that develop on the inner wall of the colon and rectum) or ulcers.
Concerns have been raised about the safety of computed tomography (CT) scanning because it uses a form of radiation. Recent research suggests that the use of CT scans may slightly increase cancer risk in the U.S. population. But, a person diagnosed with cancer or suspected of having cancer can safely receive a CT scan because the benefits always outweigh the risks.
After a diagnosis of cancer, patients and their families must make a number of decisions about cancer treatment, some of which are more difficult than others. These decisions are complicated by unfamiliar words, statistics, and a sense of urgency. However, it is important to allow time to research your options and ask questions. Decisions about cancer treatment are personal, and it is important that you feel comfortable about your decisions.