How is Cancer Diagnosed?

Video Transcript

Cancer happens when cells within our bodies develop errors and continue to create new cells containing those same errors. These errors errors can cause the cells to divide uncontrollably, forming a mass or tumor in a specific body area.


Cancer is organized into different types for diagnosis or classification purposes based on what tissue is involved. The five main types of cancer are carcinoma, sarcoma, melanoma, lymphoma, and leukemia. Many things can prompt a physician to test for cancer, such as lumps under the skin, abnormal areas on the skin, or otherwise unexplained pain.


A cancer diagnosis is determined after a patient has had various types of diagnostic testing. Testing includes lab work which looks at levels of different biomolecules in blood and urine, diagnostic imaging like x-rays and MRIs, biopsies, and visual endoscopic exams like a colonoscopy. A biopsy removes a small area of the tumor so that a pathologist can look at the cells under a microscope to determine if they are cancer cells and identify which type. Physicians use several diagnostic tests to confirm the presence, type, and stage of cancer.


Genetic testing can also be used in cancer diagnosis. Some people use the term “genetic testing” to mean slightly different things. In this case, we are referring to a test that specifically looks at genetic factors inherited by an individual’s parents that can increase the risk of developing cancer. Inherited gene information can sometimes be helpful to a physician in understanding potential risks to patients and their families. However, genetic tests that only look at inherited genes cannot precisely identify the gene mutations specific to an individual tumor.

Caris Life Sciences uses industry-leading technology that directly tests DNA, RNA, and proteins to identify the gene mutation responsible for your cancer. This information is vital in helping oncologists guide and direct the most appropriate and precise treatment plan.

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Patient Education Videos

The Central Principles of Molecular Biology video series is meant to help explain molecular profiling and cancer, so that you can understand how Caris molecular profiling helps fight cancer through precision oncology.