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Why Is Surgery the Only Available Diagnostic for Cancer?

A physical exam, lab test or scan can indicate that a patient might have cancer. However, these results alone are usually not enough to confirm a diagnosis. In many situations, only diagnostic surgery can tell for certain. While cancer surgery may be frightening or dangerous, the surgeons at Regional Cancer Care Associates are highly skilled and use the latest technology to help you get the care you deserve.

Methods of Diagnosing Cancer

Before diagnosing cancer, doctors conduct a comprehensive evaluation. They’ll look at your complete medical history and family medical history and will likely perform a physical exam. It’s also common for them to order lab tests to check for abnormalities and to order CT scans, ultrasounds, MRIs, X-rays and/or other scans. After reviewing the results from this evaluation, doctors will be able to draw conclusions about a probable diagnosis. But for most types of cancer, doctors must perform diagnostic surgery – also known as a biopsy – in order to fully understand what’s going on.

Conducting Diagnostic Surgery

A biopsy is a procedure in which doctors remove suspicious tissue from the body for testing. Sometimes all of the tissue is removed, such as a suspicious mole on the skin, while other times only a portion is taken. In some cases, nearby lymph nodes are also removed to see if the cells have spread.

After that, the tissue is examined under a microscope by a pathologist. This can reveal many characteristics about the abnormal tissue, such as:

  • Whether it’s benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous)
  • The type of cancer
  • The stage of cancer

From this information, the oncologist will be able to not only confirm a diagnosis, but offer a prognosis and even start developing a treatment plan to target these specific cancer cells. So while an X-ray or MRI might be able to show the presence of an abnormal mass or growth inside the body, it doesn’t provide the vital information doctors need to make a diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan.

Get All the Information You Need

Luckily, most biopsies are not considered major surgery. Some can even be done on an outpatient basis. Local or general anesthesia may be used. For more information about diagnostic surgery for cancer, call the RCCA office nearest you to set up an appointment with one of our expert board-certified oncologists.

we are here for you

For more information or to schedule an appointment,
call 844-346-7222. You can also schedule an appointment by calling the RCCA location nearest you.


Regional Cancer Care Associates is one of fewer than 200 medical practices in the country selected to participate in the Oncology Care Model (OCM); a recent Medicare initiative aimed at improving care coordination and access to and quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries undergoing chemotherapy treatment.