What are the different types of cancer diagnosis tests?

By: Jasmine Marfatia

Published On: October 22, 2018

Here's a detailed account of all types of cancer tests available for accurate diagnosis. Read on...

That moment when you’re awaiting medical test results to find out if you or a loved one does indeed have cancer, can be the most terrifying and difficult time to pass. Sadly enough, with cancer, one may have to go through this multiple times. 

There are after all innumerable tests, procedures, and diagnostic process involved in confirming the presence (or absence) of cancer. Moreover, the anticipation of a lab test doesn’t end there.

Cancer patients are usually required to conduct tests periodically even after being treated/ cured, to ensure they haven’t relapsed. Individuals with a family history or genetic predisposition to cancer may have to conduct routine tests and check-ups as well. 

For individuals without a medical background, all the tests, procedures, and examinations to diagnose cancer can be quite overwhelming and confusing. Through this post, we’ll simplify all kinds of cancer diagnosis tests, costs, and covering expenses for these tests for anyone who may find themselves needing to take them.

Types of cancer diagnostic tests

There are several types of cancer that can affect a person’s health, and so there are several different ways to diagnose the disease, depending on the types, stage and severity of the cancer. A typical diagnostic evaluation involves the following:

Review of medical history


First and foremost, your medical practitioner will conduct a general examination to understand your medical history, lifestyle, food habits, as well as that of your family’s, to determine whether you have a genetic predisposition to the disease or not. 

Through this, they will attempt to look for signs and symptoms that may point towards a certain types of cancer. It is important to be honest when speaking to your doctors about any signs and symptoms you may have experienced in the past.

Physical examinationPhysical examinations are conducted to detect certain types of cancers such as breast cancer, skin cancer, or a tumor in the neck, nose, throat, groin etc. Additionally, they may look for changes on your skin that may have been caused due to a cancerous tumor. 

However, physical examinations will always be done in combinations with other cancer diagnostic tests. 

Imaging tests or radiologyradiology Imaging tests make use to photographs or images taken of the inside of a person’s body, to spot a tumor or cancer, and see how far it has spread. Image testing uses x-rays, sound waves, radioactive particles, or magnetic fields that cause energy changes in energy patterns. 

A radiologist studies these images to determine whether the patient has cancer or not. Imaging tests however, are also used for many other diseases. As per the American Cancer Society, imaging tests are not always accurate in determining details of cancer, and therefore, should be conducted in combination with other more accurate tests. 

Imaging tests are usually used in early stages of cancer to locate a tumor or lump, get the location of a tumor, and figure out the size and stage. The tests named below are the ones that qualify as imaging tests:

  1. Computed tomography scan, better known as CT scan

  2. Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI scan

  3. Breast MRI

  4. Mammography

  5. Nuclear medicine scans which include bone scans, PET scans, thyroid scans, MUGA scans, gallium scans.

  6. Ultrasound test

Blood tests and urine testsA patient is asked to give a blood and/ or urine sample, which is then given to the lab for testing. The presences or absence of certain cancer or tumors markers may help the specialist detect cancer, or monitor it during/ after treatment as well. 

Some of these cancer markers may include cancer cells, proteins, and specific chemicals that act as tumor markers. Example of blood tests that are usually done for a cancer diagnosis include:

  1. Total blood count

  2. Tumor marker tests

  3. Circulating tumor cells test

  4. Blood protein test

Similarly, there are also markers that are observed in the urine for urine tests. Urinalysis tests are commonly done to detect bladder cancer, and stool based tests to detect colorectal cancer.

EndoscopyEndoscopy is a procedure that involves inserting a small light, and may even have a camera, into the patient’s body through a tube. The images from the camera will be wirelessly show on a screen, so that the doctor may detect cancer, and determine the stage and location it is at.

Different types and structures of tubes are used to navigate different parts of the body. Several types of endoscopes are available and used to detect different types of cancers:

  1. Arthroscopy for the joints

  2. Bronchoscopy for the lungs

  3. Cystoscopy for the bladder

  4. Colonoscopy for the colon

  5. Enteroscopy for the small intestine

  6. Esophagogastro-duodenoscope for the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum

  7. Hysteroscopy for the uterus

  8. Laparoscopy for the abdomen and pelvis

  9. Laryngoscope for the larynx

  10. Mediastinoscope for the mediastinum

  11. Thoracoscope for the space between the lungs and chest

  12. Sigmoidoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscope for the rectum and colon

For a detailed understanding of each of these endoscopy tests and how they are conducted, you may have a look at the American Cancer Society page. 

Biopsy and cytology testsA biopsy is one of the surest ways to actually confirm whether a person has cancer or not. A biopsy is “an examination of a tissue removed from a living body to discover the presence, cause, or extent of a disease.” 

Cytology refers to the study of cells. When cancer is present one can study the abnormalities and malignancies or cells to understand the behaviour or cancer. Types of biopsies that are used to detect cancer are as follows:

  1. Fine needle biopsy

  2. Core needle biopsy

  3. Excisional or incisional biopsy

  4. Skin biopsy

  5. Endoscopic biopsy

  6. Sentinel lymph node mapping and biopsy

  7.  Laparotomy and thoracotomy

  8. Laparoscopic and mediastinoscopy biopsy

Someone who may be at risk for cancer will have no choice other than to go through one or more of these tests before they can be treated for cancer. When accounting for the cost of cancer treatment, one often tends to forget the expenses involved in simply getting the preliminary tests done. 

All these tests come at very high costs, especially when done at reputed hospitals that use state of the art modern equipment to do these tests. Furthermore, with new medical innovations taking place every day, test are becoming more specific and accurate, but also far more expensive. 

Crowdfunding has become a very popular way for families to raise money for treatment of cancer. Therefore we’d like to urge anyone who is attempting cancer crowdfunding to also account for the cost of cancer diagnostic tests before launching your campaign with Impact Guru.

Through an effective crowdfunding campaign, you can easily raise money for yours or a loved one’s cancer diagnosis and treatment expenses. 

We suggest you also read:

How Medical Fundraising In India Is Beating Cancer 

Planning A Cancer Fundraising Event? Follow These Simple Rules! 

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