What is staging?
It is very important to identify the exact spread of cancer, both in the area of the primary tumor or where it has spread to other body organs. This process is called staging. Depending on the type of cancer, oncologists may order the following tests to “stage” cancer:
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): particularly useful in tumors of the extremities and brain.
- Computed Tomography (CT): very useful to look at tumors that have spread in the lungs, abdomen and pelvic organs.
- Bone scan: detects areas of cancer spread in the bones.
- Bone marrow biopsy: detect the presence of cancer cells in the bone marrow.
- PET/CT scan: A study that uses radio-labeled sugar. Malignant tumors take more sugar and become “hot” on the scan.
- Sentinel lymph node biopsy: a special procedure that is typically done in cases of sarcoma, breast cancer and melanoma to detect the presence of cancer cells in lymph nodes.