If the biopsy shows that cancer cells are present, further
tests are used to find out more about the cancer and to decide on
treatment. It may be several days before the results are available
and you will probably be very anxious during this time. Some of
the sites listed on the Links page contain helpful information
about coping with this sort of stress, or you can ask your nurse
or doctor for some help. The tests may include some of the
Blood samples may be taken to check your general health.
X-rays may be taken of your face or neck to see whether bones,
including your jaw, or your teeth have been affected. A chest
X-ray will find out whether the cancer has spread to the lungs
CT (CAT) scan
A CT or CAT scan uses special X-rays to construct a
3-dimensional picture of the inside of your body. It takes between
10 and 30 minutes and is painless.
You may be given a drink or injection, which may make you feel
hot all over. It is important to tell the person doing the scan if
you are allergic to iodine or have asthma before having the
injection or drink. You must not eat or drink for at least 4 hours
before the scan, but you can usually go home immediately
MRI or NMR scan
MRI or NMR imaging uses magnetic fields to construct a
3-dimensional picture of the inside of your body. During the scan,
you have to lie very still inside a metal cylinder for about 30
minutes. This can be unpleasant if you do not like enclosed
spaces. It often helps to take a friend into the room for company.
Earplugs or headphones are worn because the scan is noisy. You may
be asked to take a tape or CD so that you can hear your favourite
music while you are being scanned.
Before entering the room, remove any metal jewellery or
belongings. People who have metal objects in their bodies (e.g.
cardiac monitors, pacemakers, surgical clips, or hip replacements)
cannot have these scans because of the magnetic fields. You will
be asked about metal objects before the scan, so remember to tell
the nurse or technician if you think you may have metal in your
body (including your eyes).
This is used to detect cancer cells in bones. A very small
amount of a mildly radioactive liquid is injected into a vein.
After 2–3 hours, a machine takes a scan of the whole body. Any
bone containing cancer cells shows up as bright areas, known as
‘hot spots’. The level of radioactivity used is very low and not
harmful. It usually disappears from the body within a few hours.
Other tests may include a barium swallow, an ultrasound scan or
a positron emission tomography (PET) scan.