Many tests are used by doctors to detect or diagnose soft tissue sarcoma. They also perform tests to see if cancer has migrated to other parts of the body from where it began. It’s known as metastasis when this happens. Imaging examinations, for example, can reveal whether cancer has spread. Images of the inside of the body are produced via imaging tests. Doctors may also conduct tests to determine which treatments are most effective.
A biopsy is the only guaranteed way for a doctor to know if a part of the body contains cancer in most types. A biopsy is a procedure in which a doctor removes a small sample of tissue to be tested in a laboratory. If a biopsy is impossible, the doctor may recommend further tests to aid the diagnosis. Although there is a slight chance that biopsies will not provide a definitive answer, they are critical in allowing your doctor to make a precise diagnosis and develop a team-based treatment strategy.
This section discusses sarcoma diagnosis options. Not every person will be subjected to all of the tests described below. When choosing a diagnostic test, your doctor may take into account the following factors:
- The cancer kind that has been suspected.
- Describe your indications and symptoms.
- Your age and overall well-being.
- The outcomes of previous medical tests.
Sarcoma does not have any routine screening tests. Any strange or new lumps or bumps forming should be examined by a doctor to ensure they are not cancerous. If sarcoma is suspected, it is critical to consult with a physician who is familiar with this type of cancer.
A doctor’s clinical examination and imaging tests diagnose a sarcoma. The results of a biopsy back this up. Some of the tests listed below, besides a physical examination, may be used to diagnose sarcoma.
Imaging examinations, such as an x-ray, can detect benign and malignant tumors. A radiologist, a physician who performs and analyses imaging tests to identify disease, will use the appearance of the tumor on the test to assess whether it is benign or cancerous. A biopsy, on the other hand, is almost always required.
X-ray. An x-ray uses a small amount of radiation to provide a picture of the structures inside the body. X-rays are very beneficial in the diagnosis of bone sarcomas, although they are less useful in the diagnosis of soft tissue sarcoma.
Ultrasound. An ultrasound creates an image using sound waves and can be used to examine tumors under the skin or other organs in the body.
Scanning with a computed tomography (CT or CAT) machine. A CT scan uses x-rays captured from various angles to create images of the inside of the body. These images are combined by a computer into a detailed, three-dimensional image that reveals any anomalies or malignancies. A CT scan can be used to determine the size of the tumor or to determine if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Before the scan, a dye called a contrast medium is sometimes used to improve image detail. This dye can be injected into a patient’s vein or given to them as a tablet or liquid to swallow.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Magnetic fields, not x-rays, are used in an MRI to provide detailed body images. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan can be used to determine the tumor’s size. Before the scan, a dye called a contrast medium is administered to create a crisper image. A patient’s vein can be injected with this dye. An MRI scan is frequently used to determine whether a sarcoma may be surgically removed.
PET or PET-CT scan is a type of positron emission tomography (PET). PET scans are frequently paired with CT scans (see above), resulting in a PET-CT scan. The patient is given a small amount of radioactive sugar to inject into his or her body. The cells that use the most energy absorb this sugar molecule. Cancer absorbs more of the radioactive substance since it uses energy actively. The material is then detected by a scanner, which produces images of the inside of the body. This technique can examine the tumor’s shape and how much energy the tumor and normal tissues consume. This information can be helpful in planning treatment and assessing how well it works, but it is rarely used in all cases of soft tissue sarcoma, whether known or suspected.
Biopsy and tissue tests
Although imaging tests may imply sarcoma, a biopsy is required to confirm the diagnosis and determine the type of sarcoma. Because a poorly performed biopsy might make surgery more complex, it is critical for a patient to see a sarcoma specialist before undergoing surgery or a biopsy if a sarcoma is suspected.
A biopsy is a procedure in which a small piece of tissue is removed and examined under a microscope. Other tests may indicate the presence of cancer, but only a biopsy can provide a definitive diagnosis. A pathologist is a clinician who specializes in diagnosing disease by interpreting laboratory tests and assessing cells, tissues, and organs.
Because soft tissue sarcoma is an uncommon sarcoma, the biopsy should be reviewed by an experienced pathologist. Special testing on tumor tissue may be required to diagnose a sarcoma correctly, and it is preferable if this is done by a specialist who sees this type of cancer on a regular basis.
Biopsies come in a variety of forms.
- A needle biopsy is a procedure in which a doctor uses a needle-like instrument to remove a small tissue sample from a tumor—usually a core needle biopsy. This can be done using ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI to guide the needle into the tumor with precision.
- A surgeon performs an incisional biopsy by cutting into the tumor and removing a tissue sample.
- The surgeon involves removing the complete tumor in an excisional biopsy. Excisional biopsies are rarely suggested for sarcomas due to the significant risk of local recurrence and the requirement for additional procedures to eradicate the tumor. When cancer returns after treatment, it is called a recurrence.
When diagnosing and treating sarcomas, the type of biopsy and how it is performed are critical. Before the biopsy, patients should be evaluated in a sarcoma specialty facility so that the treating surgeon may choose the best place for the biopsy. To correctly identify a sarcoma, it is critical to have a pathologist analyze the tissue sample extracted.
Tissue testing of the tumor
The doctor or the pathologist who is examining the sarcoma may suggest that laboratory tests be performed on a tumor sample to identify specific genes, proteins, and other components that are specific to the tumor. Because each sarcoma is as diverse as breast and colon cancer, the results of these tests will aid in determining the best course of treatment.
Your doctor will review the results with you after the diagnostic tests are completed. These data can assist the doctor in describing cancer if the diagnosis is cancer. This is referred to as “staging and grading.”