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Norris Cotton Cancer Center
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Diagnosis

If you have a condition or symptom but don’t yet know the cause, your doctor may order tests to gather more information. Common tests include biopsy and state-of-the-art imaging. Once your tests are complete, you and your doctor will discuss the results, confirm your diagnosis and decide on next steps.

You may have one or more of these tests to help your doctor confirm diagnosis:

Biopsy

During a biopsy a small sample of tissue is removed from the tumor for testing. There are two primary types of biopsies you might experience:

  • Minimally Invasive Biopsy: A minimally invasive breast biopsy uses a special needle to sample an abnormal area. Most commonly, this will be performed in radiology with image guidance. Image-guided biopsy utilizes an ultrasound or CT scan to guide the needle and to ensure that the tissue sampling is accurate. Image-guided needle biopsy usually requires a very small (2-5mm) incision, but does not typically need stitches or sutures. Results of the biopsy are usually available within two working days, and recovery from the procedure usually occurs within 48 hours.
  • Surgical Biopsy: A surgical biopsy requires a small incision to remove a small sample of tissue or a tumor lump. You are given some form of anesthesia to prevent discomfort and will have a surgical scar.

CT Scan (computed tomography scan)

A CT scan is a series of x-ray pictures of a part of the body put together by a computer to give doctors a detailed picture

Endoscopy

An endoscopy is a nonsurgical procedure used to examine the digestive tract. Using an endoscope, a flexible tube with a light and camera attached to it, your doctor can carefully examine pictures of your digestive tract on a color TV monitor.

  • Upper endoscopy: During an upper endoscopy, the endoscope is passed through the mouth and throat and into the esophagus, allowing the doctor to view the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the small intestine.
  • Lower endoscopy (colonoscopy): During a lower endoscopy or colonoscopy, the endoscope transmits images of your entire large intestine, from the rectum, all the way up through the colon to the lower end of the small intestine. This procedure, among other purposes, is used to look for early signs of cancer in the colon and rectum.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

An MRI test uses magnetic fields and radio waves to capture detailed images of GI organs. During the procedure you will lie flat on a padded platform, which then slides into the center of a tube shaped MRI machine. You will not feel the magnetic fields or radio waves around you, but you will hear a loud thumping sound. You will be asked to lie very still during the procedure, The MRI technicians will work with you to help this procedure be as comfortable as possible.

Ultrasound

Ultrasounds use sound waves to take images of organs and soft tissues. This is a non-invasive method of evaluation and diagnosis. It is often used as a follow-up test after an abnormal finding on other imaging or clinical exam. In instances where a needle biopsy has been recommended, ultrasounds can be used to help guide the procedure.

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