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What is the Diagnosis Process for Bone Cancer?

Expert medical opinion required for bone cancer diagnose

Diagnosis is the process of finding the cause of a health problem. The process of diagnosis may seem long and frustrating, but it is important for the doctor to rule out other reasons for a health problem before making a cancer diagnosis.

Diagnosing Bone Cancer

Diagnostic tests for bone cancer are usually done when:

  • the symptoms of bone cancer are present
  • the doctor suspects bone cancer after talking with a person about their health and completing a physical examination
  • The doctor will instruct tests to check patient’s general health and design treatment plan.

Medical History and Physical Examination

Medical history is a record of a person’s present symptoms, risk factors and the medical problems in the past and also family member’s medical history. A person’s medical history is determined by personal history of radiation (as treatment or occupational exposure), bone disorders and family history of genetic conditions.

Tests to Find Bone Metastases

Occasionally bone metastases can be identified because they cause health issues (symptoms), but sometimes they are known in advance through lab and imaging tests (like x-rays or bone scans). These tests may include the following:

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests create pictures of inside patient’s body.

1) X-rays (X-radiation and Radiograph)

X-rays are often the first tests done if a person with cancer is having bone pain or other symptoms. An x-ray uses extremely small doses of radiation to make an image of the body’s structures on film. Most bone cancers show up on x-ray, and it is often the first imaging test done. It is used to check the following:

  • In osteolytic or lytic metastases, the cancer cells dissolve the bone, making part of it less dense. If the cancer has destroyed enough of the bone, these changes look like a darker hole in the gray-white bone. On x-rays, these changes show up as spots that are whiter than the bone around them.
  • X-rays, which can show the location, size, and shape of a bone tumour.
  • X-rays can also show fractures (breaks) in bones that have been weakened by metastases.
  • Identify damage to the bone.
  • Check if the cancer has spread to nearby tissues.
  • Determine if the tumour looks benign or malignant

2) Bone Scan 

A bone can, which is a test in which a small amount of radioactive material is injected into a blood vessel and travels through the bloodstream; it then collects in the bones and is detected by a scanner.

A bone scan uses bone-seeking radioactive materials (radiopharmaceuticals) and a computer to create a picture of the bones.

3) CT (Computed Tomography) Scan

A computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan, which is a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles, that are created by a computer linked to an x-ray.

This scan uses special x-ray equipment to make 3-dimensional and cross-sectional images of organs, tissues, bones and blood vessels inside the body. A computer turns the images into detailed pictures. Doctors take CT scan to confirm the following:

4) MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

MRI uses powerful magnetic forces and radio-frequency waves to make cross-sectional images of organs, tissues, bones and blood vessels. A computer turns the images into 3-dimensional pictures.


  • confirms the depth of a tumour inside a bone
  • show how much a bone tumour has grown outside the bone
  • determine if a tumour has grown into blood vessels, nerves, bone marrow or other nearby tissues or structures.
  • shows if the tumour has developed in one or more sites within the same bone (skip metastases)
  • helps the surgeon plan for possible surgery.



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