ON THIS PAGE: You will find a list of the common tests, procedures, and scans that doctors can use to find out what’s wrong and identify the cause of the problem. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.
Doctors use many tests to diagnose a tumor and find out if it is cancerous, and if so, if it has metastasized (spread). Some tests may also determine which treatments may be the most effective. For a tumor, a biopsy is the only way to make a definitive diagnosis. If a biopsy is not possible, the doctor may suggest other tests that will help make a diagnosis. Imaging tests may be used to find out whether the tumor has spread. This list describes options for diagnosing DIG, and not all tests listed will be used for every child. Your child’s doctor may consider these factors when choosing a diagnostic test:
- Age and medical condition
- Type of tumor suspected
- Signs and symptoms
- Previous test results
In addition to a physical examination, the following tests may be used to diagnose DIG:
Computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan.  A CT scan creates a three-dimensional picture of the inside of the body with an x-ray machine. A computer then combines these images into a detailed, cross-sectional view that shows any abnormalities or tumors. A CT scan can also be used to measure the tumor’s size. Sometimes, a contrast medium (a special dye) is injected into a vein or given orally (by mouth) to provide better detail.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).  An MRI uses magnetic fields, not x-rays, to produce detailed images of the body. A contrast medium may be injected into a patient’s vein or given orally to create a clearer picture.
Biopsy.  A biopsy is the removal of a small amount of tissue for examination under a microscope. Other tests can suggest that cancer is present, but only a biopsy can make a definite diagnosis. The sample removed during the biopsy is analyzed by a pathologist (a doctor who specializes in interpreting laboratory tests and evaluating cells, tissues, and organs to diagnose disease).
After these diagnostic tests are done, your child’s doctor will review all of the results with you. If the diagnosis is DIG, these results also help the doctor describe the tumor; this is called staging and grading.
The next section helps explain the different stages for this type of cancer. Use the menu on the side of your screen to select Stages, or you can select another section, to continue reading this guide.