Saint Agnes Hospital

Strong Foundation, Brilliant Future.

Detection Methods

Accurately Diagnosing Cancer: the First Step in Treatment

Our expert physicians understand that an accurate diagnosis is integral to the development of your personalized treatment plan. Our physicians have access to the latest technologies which ensures that every patient’s diagnosis is as accurate and as thorough as possible. Once a diagnosis has been obtained, your physician will work closely with the rest of the multidisciplinary team to determine the proper course of treatment for you.

Learn About Our Lung Screening Program

The Importance of Testing

If you feel that there are indicators that you may have cancer you should immediately consult your physician. If your physician suspects that you may have cancer they will order that you undergo further testing utilizing one of the technologies listed below. These methods will not only determine whether or not you have cancer but can play a vital role in the development of your treatment plan. With the information gathered from these tests our experienced physicians will work with you to develop a treatment plan that is effective and suits your needs.

Imaging Studies

X-Ray machines send a high energy electronic wave through the body recording the results to a photographic film.

CT scan (computed tomography)
A CT scan is similar to an x-ray but it provides a more detailed look inside the body. CT scans are better tools for staging cancer as they can determine not only the size and location of a tumor but whether or not the cancer has spread. This technology may require a dye to be injected in the body to illuminate the area in question. A CT machine requires you to lie on your back in a tube for a period of time.

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
An MRI is different than an x-ray or CT scan in that it utilizes radiowaves and magnets to create an image. This technology also requires that a dye be used and the imaging process last approximately an hour. MRI scans are particularly effective when imaging the brain.

PET scan (positron mission tomography)
Before undergoing a PET scan you must ingest a dye containing a type of sugar. Cancer cells require more sugar than normal cells. As the cancer cells absorb more of the sugar in the dye they can be differentiated from normal cells. PET scans are particularly effective when imaging lymph nodes which will help to determine whether or not the cancer has spread.

Ultrasound technology utilizes sound waves fed into a computer to create an image. Tumors reflect sound waves differently that normal body tissues making an ultra sound an effective way to determine a tumor.

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast.

Other tests

During a colonoscopy, you will be mildly sedated. A thin tube with a camera in inserted through rectum and guided through the colon. This procedure is the most effective method in diagnosing colorectal cancer.

During an endoscopy, a thin tube equipped with a camera, called an endoscope is guided down the esophagus. This tool is effective in diagnosing esophageal cancer and can perform a biopsy as well.

Laparoscopy involves a small incision in which an imaging tool such as a lighted camera on a thin tube can be placed. The incision may also be used to perform a biopsy or other procedures. Typically this method is used in diagnosing abdominal cancers.

A biopsy involves the removal of a small piece of the tumor or fluid. This sample is then examined under a microscope to determine a diagnosis.

Blood tests:
The examining of a blood sample can show abnormalities which can aid in diagnosis.


Staging is the process of classifying tumors. It takes into account the size of the primary tumor, whether other tumors have developed, the rate of growth, presence in lymph nodes surrounding the tumor, the cancer cell type and whether or not the tumor metastasized or spread throughout the body. The stage at which your tumor is discovered will greatly affect the course of your treatment plan and can be used to determine a general prognosis.

Staging is an evolving science much like the rest of cancer care. Stages are categorized as follows

  • Stage 0 - The cancer cells have yet to infiltrate the cells of surrounding, healthy tissue cells (Carcinoma in situ)
  • Stage 1 - The Cancer is localized to a single part of the body
  • Stage 2 - The cancer is in one section of the body but is advancing
  • Stage 3 - Similar to stage 2. The difference between these stages is often reliant on the type of cancer.
  • Stage 4 - The Cancer has metastasized and spread to other portions in the body.

For more information on staging visit the National Cancer Institute’s site on staging at

For more information on treatment options or any information regarding Caner Institute at Saint Agnes Hospital please contact us at 410-368-2910.



For more information please visit the following:

To Find a Physician please click here or call 1-866-690-9355.


Connect With Us

Stay in touch with Saint Agnes by connecting with us on your favorite social media network or by signing up to receive our e-Newsletter.

  • Share