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When Your Parent Has Cancer: A Guide for Teens

  • Posted: 04/12/2011

Monitoring tests

TestPurpose 
BiopsyUsed to find out whether a tumor or abnormality is cancer. Benign means it is not cancer. Malignant means that it is cancer.A doctor removes a sample from a person using one of two ways: with a long needle (needle biopsy) or by making a small cut (surgical biopsy).
Blood testChecks the blood to see whether the balance of the cells and chemicals is normalA nurse or technician inserts a needle into a vein, usually in the arm. Then he or she draws blood.
Bone marrow aspirationCollects a small sample of cells from inside a bone to be examined under a microscopeA needle is used to remove a small sample of tissue from a bone (usually the hip bone).
CAT scan or CT scan (Computerized axial tomography)Uses x-rays and a computer to produce threedimensional (3-D) images of the inside of the bodyThe patient lies flat on a table, which moves through a large tube while a series of x-rays is taken.
MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging)Uses radio and magnetic waves to make images of organs and other tissues inside the bodyThe patient lies flat on a table, which moves through a large tube while an MRI machine scans the body for several minutes.
PET scan (Positron emission tomography)Uses computerized pictures of areas inside the body to find cancer cellsThe patient gets an injection and then a machine takes computerized pictures of areas inside the body.
Spinal tap (Lumbar puncture)Collects a sample of the fluid inside the spine to be examined under a microscopeA needle is used to remove fluid from the spine in the lower back.
Ultrasound (Ultrasonography)Uses high-frequency sound waves to make images of internal organs and other tissues inside the bodyA technician moves a small handheld device over an area on the patient's body. An image appears on the computer screen.
X-rayTakes a picture of the inside of the body using highenergy wavesThe patient is placed in front of the x-ray machine or lies on a table.