Tests & Screenings for Cancer

Getting the most accurate cancer diagnosis is one of the first steps in proper treatment. At MacNeal Hosptial, we offer a wide range of tests and screenings.


A physician administers a special dye called barium into the patient’s rectum and colon through the anus. An x-ray is then taken, with the barium showing up bright white, clearly outlining the colon and rectum. Abnormalities such as inflammation, polyps (precancerous growths) and cancer are then visible.


Bone marrow aspiration and bone marrow biopsy are short medical procedures in which a physician collects a sample of bone marrow, the spongy tissue inside of bones, so that it can be examined.


A bone scan is an imaging test in which a doctor injects a very small amount of a radioactive substance (tracer) to find or monitor cancer that started in the bones or that has spread to the bones from another part of the body.


During a biopsy, a physician removes an area of breast tissue and sends this sample to a pathologist to determine whether cancer cells are present.


Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an imaging test that uses magnets and radio waves instead of x-rays to produce very detailed, cross-sectional images of the breasts. The patient lies inside a narrow tube, face down, on a platform specially designed for the procedure.


In a colonoscopy, the doctor inserts a colonoscope, which is a flexible tube with a small video camera attached to it, into the anus so that he may look inside the entire large intestine to screen for polyps or cancerous cells.


In a computed tomography (CT) scan, also called a CAT scan, a trained technologist positions the patient on the CT examination table. The table moves through the scanner while x-rays take highly detailed images of the body. These images are used to find out the cancer’s stage (where it is located, where it has spread and whether it is affecting the functions of other organs in the body).


There are two types of mammograms: film and digital. While the technique for performing them is the same, digital mammograms capture images using digital files saved on a computer. These images can be viewed on a screen, and areas can be enlarged or highlighted, improving diagnostic accuracy. These images can also be sent electronically.


During a DRE, the doctor gently inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel for lumps, soft or hard spots, and other abnormalities. Additional tests may be needed if an area of concern is found.


In an electrocardiogram and an echocardiogram (EKG or ECG), a nurse or medical technician places stickers (called leads or electrodes) with wires connected to them on the patient’s chest. These leads collect information about the heart’s electrical activity, which the doctor then interprets. Chemotherapy patients may need one of these tests before, during or after treatment to identify pre-existing heart conditions to identify chemotherapy-related heart damage.


Endoscopy is a procedure in which a doctor inserts a thin tube with a camera (endoscope) into the body to diagnose or, in some cases, treat a health condition.


A fecal occult blood test (FOBT) is a test that may be used to search for signs of colorectal cancer or other health conditions, usually blood in the stool. The doctor will require the collection of three stool samples taken one day apart, because colon cancers may bleed from time to time, rather than consistently.


People who have a high risk of lung cancer may undergo a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan of the chest, which produces detailed, cross-sectional images of the lungs to detect lung diseases and abnormalities.


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a test that uses magnetic fields, not x-rays, to produce detailed images of the body, helping a doctor find, evaluate, or monitor a cancer. The patient lies inside a narrow tube on a platform specially designed for the procedure while a doctor or trained technician initiates the scan.


Mammography is a type of x-ray that checks for breast cancer in women. The images produced by mammography, called mammograms, show small tumors or other irregularities in the breast that cannot be felt by the doctor in a conventional exam.


A multigated acquisition (MUGA) scan creates video images of the ventricles (lower chambers of the heart that hold blood) to check whether they are pumping blood properly and if there are abnormalities in the size of the ventricles or the movement of the blood through the heart. It is performed by a specially trained and certified nuclear medicine technologist and supervised by a radiologist (a medical doctor who specializes in using imaging tests to diagnose disease).


A doctor gently inserts a flexible tube with a camera into the sigmoid colon through the anus to look for abnormalities inside the lower 20 inches of the sigmoid colon and rectum (also called the large intestine). The large intestine plays an important role in the body’s ability to process waste.


A stereotactic biopsy uses imaging to help locate a lump or abnormality so that a tissue sample can be removed and examined.


In an ultrasound, a doctor or ultrasound technologist, called a sonographer, places a transducer, which resembles a microphone, on the patient’s body. The transducer sends high-frequency sound waves into the body and then listens for the returning echoes to create images that appear on a console screen.


In an upper endoscopy, a doctor inserts a flexible tube with an attached camera into the mouth and down the esophagus to examine the upper part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, including the esophagus (the muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach), stomach and duodenum (the top of the small intestine).

Your Next Step: Contact MacNeal Hospital

For more information or to request an appointment, please call 877-834-7264.