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A first step in cancer treatment is the diagnosis. Diagnosis of cancer often involves a biopsy. A biopsy is a surgical procedure to remove a small sample of tissue from a tumor. A pathologist looks at the tissue under a microscope. The histology of the tissue, or how the cells look, gives information to identify the specific type of cancer.
The methods used for the biopsy depend on where the tumor is located, the amount of tissue needed, and other procedures that are planned. Types of biopsy include needle biopsy and surgical biopsy.
The pathologist views the cells under the microscope. If cancer cells are present, the tumor is malignant. If there are no cancer cells, the tumor is benign. Tumors are evaluated based on what the cells look like, how fast they are likely to grow, and how much the cells have spread.
Doctors will use the information from the biopsy to plan treatment. Several factors are considered including:
Learn more about cancer diagnosis and treatment.
In some cases, doctors may perform an examination of a patient under general anesthesia. This procedure is called an EUA: exam under anesthesia. Because patients must be monitored during anesthesia, EUAs are done in an operating room under the care of an anesthesiologist. In childhood cancer, this procedure is usually used to diagnose retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye. Sometimes, EUAs are used in other exams such as pelvic exams. Doctors try to limit the use of anesthesia when possible. However, certain exams require the child to be completely still. The type of exam, child’s age, and/or potential physical or emotional discomfort may call for the use of sedation.
Reviewed: June 2018