Diagnosis

Pain is the most common symptom of bone cancer. If a patient experiences pain, a doctor will order one of the following tests to diagnose bone cancer:

Biopsy - Removal of tissue through a needle biopsy (surgeon will make a small hole in the bone to remove a sample) or an incisional biopsy (surgeon will cut into the tumor and remove sample) to determine whether cancer is present.

Blood Tests - This test is used to determine the level of an enzyme called alkaline phosphatase. A large amount of this enzyme is present in the blood when the cells that form bone tissue are very active.

Imaging Tests - A variety of tests is available to determine if malignant cells are present. Bone scans, CAT scans and MRI tests are most common.

Bone Scan - a test in which a small amount of radioactive material is injected into a blood vessel and travels through the bloodstream. After the material pools in the bones it is then detected by a scanner.

Computed Tomography (CAT) Scan - a series of detailed images, taken from different angles, are created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Procedure - this uses a powerful magnet linked to a computer to create detailed scans without using x-rays.

Positron Emmision Tomography (PET) Scan - A small amount of radioactive glucose is injected into a vein and a scanner is used to make detailed, computerized images where the glucose is used. Cancer cells often use more glucose than normal cells so the images can be used to find cancer cells in the body.

X-Rays - An x-ray can show the location, size, and shape of a bone tumor.

Once the results from the test or procedure are returned you will be able to make thoughtful decisions. Please see Newly Diagnosed  for information on being patient active, treatment decisions, partnering with your healthcare team and finding support. 

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is difficult. Please see Caregivers and/or Online Support for more information on how the Cancer Support Community can offer support.

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