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Diagnostic Evaluations

Lab tests

A doctor may recommend certain lab tests if cancer is suspected. The lab tests may help guide the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

Examples of the types of laboratory tests we use include those listed below.

Advanced genomic testing

Genomic tumor assessments help identify DNA alterations that are driving the growth of a particular tumor. This deeper understanding of a tumor’s molecular makeup helps tailor treatments that target abnormalities in a specific tumor.

Although conventional genomic testing is standard-of-care for some patients, advanced assessments are not recommended or available to all patients. Gene-mapping tests may be appropriate for patients with rare, unusual or hard-to-treat cancers, and for patients whose tumors did not respond adequately to conventional therapies.

In a genomic tumor assessment, a biopsy is taken of the patient’s tumor, cancer cells are isolated and extracted from the biopsy, and the cancer cells’ DNA is sequenced in the lab. Then, sophisticated equipment is used to scan the sequenced genetic profile for abnormalities that dictate how the tumor functions.

The abnormalities are analyzed to determine whether they match known mutations that may have responded to particular therapies or where evidence suggests there may be a potential treatment option not previously considered. If there’s a match, doctors may be able to use the results to suggest treatments that have been used in the past to target the same mutations.

Learn more about advanced genomic testing

Genetic testing

Genetic testing maps an individual’s genetic profile to identify inherited abnormalities or predispositions that may carry health implications, such as the risk for developing cancer

Genetic testing consists of a mouthwash or blood test. Analysis of the sample may determine a person’s likelihood of developing a certain type of cancer, whether a gene mutation contributed to an existing cancer diagnosis, and whether a person is at a greater risk of developing the same cancer again or developing another type of cancer.

Learn more about genetic testing

CTC test

Cellsearch™circulating tumor cell (CTC) tests may be used to monitor metastatic breast, colorectal and prostate cancers. This diagnostic test helps capture, identify and count circulating tumor cells in a blood sample. CTCs are cancer cells that detach from solid tumors and enter the bloodstream. The blood test may be performed prior to the start of therapy or during the course of treatment.

Complete blood count test

A complete blood count (CBC) test measures the number of blood cells circulating in the bloodstream. Specifically, it measures a blood sample for the level of red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body; white blood cells, which fight infection; and platelets, which help with blood clotting. The test also measures hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen, and hematocrit, the ratio of red blood cells to plasma.

A CBC may be used to detect a variety of conditions, including leukemia, anemia and infection. Also, because some cancer treatments may temporarily lower blood counts, oncologists often use CBC tests throughout treatment to closely monitor a patient’s blood counts.

Flow cytometry

This test is used to diagnose and classify certain cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma, and to evaluate the risk of recurrence. Flow cytometry also may be used as part of the stem cell transplantation process.

Flow cytometry measures the properties of cells in a sample of bone marrow, lymph nodes or blood. The sample is first treated with special antibodies and passed in front of a laser beam. If the antibodies attach to the cells, the cells give off light. The presence of certain substances, or antigens, on the surface of cells may help identify the cell type.

Flow cytometry may also be used to measure the amount of DNA in cancer cells. In this case, the cells are treated with special light-sensitive dyes that react with DNA. For patients with breast, prostate or bladder cancer, an abnormal amount of DNA may indicate a recurrence.

Mammaprint + Blueprint® test

The Mammaprint® 70-Gene Breast Cancer Recurrence Assay may be used to determine the risk that a patient’s cancer will return. A high-risk score means the cancer has a three-in-10 chance of returning. A low-risk result puts the chances at one in 10. Neither result is a guarantee that the malignancy will or will not come back, but the assessment may be used to guide treatment decisions.

The Blueprint® 80-Gene Molecular Subtyping Assay examines which of the tumor’s mutations are dictating the cancer’s behavior. When used with the Mammaprint assay, Blueprint may narrowly define each tumor into a subtype classification, which also may help guide treatment decisions.

Oncotype DX® test

The Oncotype DX lab test is used to determine whether chemotherapy is likely to benefit patients with early-stage breast cancer. It also helps evaluate the likelihood of disease recurrence.

This diagnostic test is often performed on a small amount of tissue removed during breast cancer surgery and then examined at a molecular level. The Oncotype DX test provides specific information about the disease, which may help guide treatment decisions.