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Further tests for soft tissue sarcoma

This page tells you about further tests you may have if you are diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Further tests for soft tissue sarcoma

If your tests show you have a sarcoma, you may need to have further tests. These help your doctors to decide on the best treatment.

Scans

Your doctor may want to do more scans to get a better picture of your cancer and to see if there are any signs that it has spread. As sarcoma can sometimes spread to the lung you will usually have a lung CT scan to check your lungs. You may have a PET scan of the area of the tumour. For some types of sarcoma you may also have CT scans of your abdomen or brain. Your doctor may also use an MRI scan or CT scan to see whether the sarcoma has spread into nearby lymph nodes.

Tests on cancer genes

Tests that look at the chromosomes and genes in the cancer cells are called cytogenetic tests. These tests are often used if there is any doubt about the exact type of sarcoma. They can be useful for telling a Ewing's sarcoma from other types of sarcoma, such as small cell sarcomas for example. This is important because Ewing's sarcomas need different treatment than other types of sarcoma.

After your tests

You may feel very anxious while waiting for the results of your tests. It may help to talk to a friend or relative about how you are feeling. Or you may want to contact a cancer support group to talk to someone who has been through a similar experience.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Diagnosing soft tissue sarcoma section.

 

 

Why you need more tests

If your tests show that you have a sarcoma, you may need to have further tests to see if it has spread. This will help your doctors to decide on the best treatment. Your doctor may also want to do some tests on the cancer cells that were removed. There are many different types of soft tissue sarcoma and it can be difficult to tell one from another sometimes, even for a very experienced pathologist. Detailed tests on the genes within the sarcoma cells can help find out exactly what type of sarcoma it is.

 

CT scan

A CT scan is a computerised scan using X-rays. You will usually have a CT scan of your chest to see if there are any signs of sarcoma in the lungs. You may have an injection of dye called contrast before the scan. This helps to make the scan clearer to read. 

For some types of sarcoma your doctor may also ask you to have CT scans of the abdominal area (tummy) or the lymph nodes close to the tumour.

There is detailed information about having a CT scan in the section about cancer tests.

 

PET scan

You may have a PET scan if you have been diagnosed with some types of sarcoma. You have an injection of a very small amount of a radioactive glucose, which travels through your body. You then lie under a special scanner, which shows the levels of glucose in different areas. Cancers use glucose in a different way from normal tissue. This type of scan can show the size of some types of sarcoma and also whether they have spread. 

We have detailed information about having a PET scan in the cancer tests section.

 

MRI scan

Magnetic resonance imaging is commonly known as an MRI scan. It uses magnetism to create pictures of the body. For some types of sarcoma you may have an MRI scan to show whether any sarcoma cells have spread into lymph nodes close to the tumour. You may have an injection of a dye called contrast medium before the scan. This helps to make the scan clearer. There is information about having an having an MRI scan in the section about cancer tests.

 

Tests for gene changes

Tests that look at the chromosomes and genes in the cancer cells are called cytogenetic tests. Doctors use these tests if there is any doubt about the exact type of sarcoma. They can be useful for telling a Ewing's sarcoma from other types of sarcoma, such as small cell sarcomas. This is important because Ewing's sarcomas need different treatment from other types of sarcoma.

 

After the tests

You will be asked to go back to the hospital when your test results have come through. This is bound to take a little time, even if only a day or two. You may feel very anxious during this time.

While you are waiting for results it may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you are feeling. Or you may want to contact a cancer support group to talk to someone who has been through a similar experience. 

If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use Cancer Chat, our online forum. Look at the list of soft tissue sarcoma organisations for organisations that can put you in touch with other people who have cancer or that provide counselling services.

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Updated: 9 February 2015