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When making a diagnosis of bone cancer, the process generally involves a physical exam, questions about a person's personal and family medical history, and certain tests and procedures that examine the bone. Tests and procedures that are used to make a diagnosis include (but are not limited to) blood tests, x-rays, computed tomography scans, and biopsies.

Diagnosing Bone Cancer: An Introduction

If a person has potential bone cancer symptoms, the doctor will need to perform a physical exam and ask about the patient's personal and family medical history. In order to make a diagnosis, the doctor will also recommend additional tests and procedures that examine the bones.
 

The Role of the Physical Exam and History in a Bone Cancer Diagnosis

During the physical exam, the doctor will feel the affected area for any lumps or bumps. The medical history will entail questions about the patient's health habits and a family history of any medical conditions, past illnesses, and treatments.
 

Exams and Tests Used in Making a Diagnosis

Exams and tests that are used to make a bone cancer diagnosis may include:
 
  • Blood tests
  • X-rays
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Bone scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • Angiogram
  • Biopsy.
     
Blood Tests
A blood test may be used to determine the level of an enzyme called alkaline phosphatase. A large amount of alkaline phosphatase can be found in the blood when the cells that form bone tissue are highly active. Bone tissues are active when children are growing, when a broken bone is mending, or when a disease or a tumor causes production of abnormal bone tissue. However, this test is not a completely reliable indicator of bone cancer.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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