B2007: How Are Cancers Detected?


The most important thing in the fight against cancer is how early you can detect it before it becomes too late. However, as much as medical science has advanced over the years there is still a line where the tumour cells are too insignificant to be detected by tests. This is called the line of clinical detection.

Every tests have their limits in which they can help pinpoint whether of not it is cancer. That’s why in cases where the diagnosis is unconfirmed, doctors would run a battery of tests just to be sure. The kind of tests that doctors will perform are as follows:

  1. Palpation – Involves feeling for lumps like that you get when examining your breasts.
  2. X-Ray – Good at picking up solid masses.
  3. Ultrasound – Works with softer masses that can be missed with an X-Ray. Inexpensive.
  4. CT Scan – Creates a sliced image of the body using directed X-Rays. Best for identifying calcified tissues.
  5. Magnetic Resonance Imagine (MRI) – Creates a sliced image of the body using giant magnets and radio waves. Best for identifying non calcified tissues
  6. Nuclear Medicine – Uses radioactive dyes to pick up changes in the body.
  7. Fine Needle Aspiration – A needle is driven into mass or tissue and collects cell samples which is then observed under a microscope for malignant changes.
  8. Biopsy – A tissue sample is cut out and sliced onto a microsope slide and checked for any changes in the tissue.

What you have to understand is that the more invasive the test is (such as fine needle aspirations or a biopsy), the more accurate you’ll be able to determine whether or not you have malignant cancer cells. That accuracy lowers the line of clinical detection and increases your chances of survival should it turn out to be cancer.

You don’t really have to be afraid of all these tests. It’s much more scary to find out later on that there is indeed something wrong with you when it’s already too late.

This year Footsteps in the Mirror will be blogging to raise money for the Association for International Cancer Research which is a non-profit organisation that helps fund cancer research throughout the world. If you’re willing to help, you can sign up on the Blogathon website and pledge your amount right here. Help make a difference, no matter how small it may be.

3 thoughts on “B2007: How Are Cancers Detected?

  1. A fine needle aspiration looks at small fractions of tissues. Basically the sample is taken with a needle which removes some tissue from a mass so that a cytologist can check it under a microscope. A biopsy however is a cut section of a whole tissue which is observed under a microscopic, usually by a histologist.

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