Cancer diagnosis

How is cancer diagnosed?

There is no single, simple method to diagnose cancer.

There is also no single timeframe.  It may take several months or years for malignant cells to multiply to the point where they become a detectable cancer.

Sometimes cancers may be discovered accidentally during routine tests or the investigation of non-specific symptoms.

If you have a symptom or a screening test result that suggests cancer, your doctor must find out whether it is due to cancer or some other cause. The doctor may start by asking about your personal and family medical history and do a physical exam. The doctor also may order lab tests, imaging tests (scans), or other tests or procedures. 

There are a range of effective diagnostic testing that is used to confirm or eliminate the presence of disease.

Tests and procedures for cancer diagnosis may include:

  • Laboratory tests (including tests for tumor markers)
  • Tumor biopsies
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Endoscopic examinations
  • Surgery
  • Genetic testing

These tests and procedures are also used to monitor the disease process, and to plan for and evaluate the effectiveness of treatment.

In some cases, it is necessary to repeat testing when a person’s condition has changed, if a sample collected was not of good quality, or an abnormal test result needs to be confirmed.

In Western Australia, we have world leading physicians and cancer specialists, with access to the most advanced technology and procedures available to diagnose cancer.

Your GP and cancer specialist will guide you through this part of your cancer journey and share details and information on the right tests and procedures for your individual cancer.

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