© 2005-2012 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). All rights reserved worldwide.
Treatments, Tests, and Procedures
Learn more about the specific medical tests and procedures used to diagnose and treat 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.
This is the first article in a three-part series, and it provides an overview of the basics of surgery.
This article—the second in a three-part series—outlines what you will experience before, during, and after treatment.
This article—the third in a three-part series—describes the side effects of this treatment.
A colostomy is a surgical opening, called a stoma, that connects the large intestine to the abdominal surface, providing a pathway for waste to exit the body. The waste is then collected in a pouch worn by the patient. A colostomy is used when a part of the large intestine (which plays an important role in the body's ability to process waste) is surgically removed or when the flow of stool needs to be diverted from exiting via the rectum due to partial blockage or damage to the large bowel.