NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer, Version 1.2017
Understanding your tests
Part 2 is a guide to common diagnostic
tests and procedures and what the results
How is cancer diagnosed?
Getting diagnosed with cancer is a process. It starts
when you or your doctor notices something abnormal
that wasn’t there before:
a lump that can be felt
a mole that changes shape or color
a pain that can’t be explained
Your doctor will usually begin with asking you
questions. He or she will then do some testing in
order to get the most information about what is
happening in your body. Very often your doctor will
send you to a specialist who is more experienced in
diagnosing and treating the type of cancer you have.
Cancer doctors who specialize in treating cancer are
Medical history and physical exam
Details about your medical history and an exam of
your body are two of the most basic tools of diagnosis.
A medical history is just what it sounds like—a
history of everything that has ever happened
to you health-wise.
Your doctor will:
Gather information about any health events
that have happened in your life, including
surgeries, accidents, and past illnesses.
Find out about current problems and any
medications you are taking.
It may help to make a list before you
go to your appointment to make sure
you don’t forget anything.
Ask about the medical history of your family
to check for disease such as cancer, heart
disease, or diabetes.
When the doctor checks your body for signs of
disease, it is called a physical exam. Doctors often
perform a physical exam along with taking a medical
Dealing with the
16 How is cancer diagnosed?
20 What do the test results mean?
21 What are my options?