How is Cancer Diagnosed?


New-York Presbyterian is home to highly-skilled oncologists and cancer specialists. If you are exhibiting signs and symptoms of cancer, we can provide a diagnosis and a personalized treatment plan to fit your needs.

How we test for and diagnose cancer will depend on the type and stage of the disease. We utilize the following methods to make a cancer diagnosis:

  • Physical exam - Your physician will make note of your symptoms and look for physical evidence of the presence of cancer—lumps in your body, organ enlargement, or abnormal moles or changes in skin color.
  • Biopsy - A biopsy procedure is performed by extracting a sample of cells to test for cancer. A biopsy can be done in a variety of ways—by fine-needle, incision, scraping, endoscopically, or laparoscopically—but they are always done by a specialist.
  • Lab tests - Urine and blood tests can help determine the presence of cancer. A pathologist will analyze cell samples to look for abnormal growth and cancer markers.
  • Imaging tests. Imaging tests can confirm the existence of tumors and determine the growth rate and stage of the cancer. There are a range of imaging tests used to diagnose certain types of cancer, including:
    • X-rays
    • CT scans
    • Bone scans
    • MRI
    • Ultrasonography
    • Positron emission therapy (PET) scan

How is Cancer Treated?


Cancer treatments are specific to the individual and vary on a case-to-case basis. The oncologists and cancer specialists at NewYork-Presbyterian will develop the best personal course of treatment, factoring in the type of cancer, its stage, and your health and comfort.

Some of the most common types of cancer treatment options include:


Chemotherapy uses powerful drugs to kill cancer cells. It can be administered through an IV drip or in pill form.

The range of side effects of chemotherapy as a cancer treatment can include:

  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Infection

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy kills cancer cells with high doses of radiation administered by an external machine or from inside the body. It is sometimes combined with chemotherapy treatments.

Depending on where and how it’s performed, side effects of radiation therapy can include:

  • Thinning hair or hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Skin irritation, the area treated could appear swollen, red, blistered or sunburned
  • Low blood counts


Immunotherapy harnesses the strength of your own immune system to fight cancer. Typically administered by injection, it can treat cancer by attacking cancerous cells without destroying the healthy ones.

Some side effects of immunotherapy can be:

  • Chills
  • Coughing
  • Arthritis
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite


Surgical treatments can be performed to remove the cancerous tumor or affected tissue. These can include surgical biopsies and other minimally invasive procedures which can be done on an outpatient basis.

Side effects of surgery can be:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Blood clots
  • Infection

Precision-targeted therapies

Targeted drug therapies zero in on specific genes or cellular pathways and impair a tumor’s ability to divide, grow, and spread. This allows surrounding non-cancerous cells to remain unharmed. Precision-targeted therapies can be given in pill form or by injection.

Side effects to the treatment can include:

  • Liver problems
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Mouth sores

Clinical trials

Certain patients may be eligible to participate in trials for promising new forms of cancer treatments. Your doctor can direct you toward these clinical trials and help you enroll in them.

There are advancements in cancer treatments happening all the time, especially in the field of precision medicine. These go beyond the traditional methods of radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery for a personalized approached, including genetic treatment methods, immunotherapy, and precision-targeted therapies.



Under a microscope, cancer cells appear abnormally shaped (sometimes larger, sometimes smaller) and darker compared to healthy cells.

Some cancers grow more slowly than others. Cancer can be present in the body for months or years before being detected.

The direct cause of cancer is unknown. However, there are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing the disease: poor diet, UV rays from the sun, smoking, and exposure to radiation, to name a few.

Genetic changes that cause cancer can be inherited from a parent, increasing one’s risk of developing the disease. Inherited genetic mutations are involved in around 5 to 10 percent of all cancers.

Cancer is a common condition. An estimated 39.5% of men and women may develop cancer in their lifetimes.

There is a vast range of cancer symptoms. Some people can have it for years and exhibit no symptoms. Common symptoms can include: fevers, weight loss, an unusual lump in the body, and night sweats. It’s important to check in with your doctor about any changes in your body.

After treatment, if you are in remission from cancer, your cancer either been partially or completely eradicated.

Left untreated, very dangerous. Cancer is the second leading cause of death after heart disease. But, if caught in its early stages, many cancers are treatable.

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Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Cancer Treatment

Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be scary. NewYork-Presbyterian is here to support you every step of the way—from diagnosis through treatment and beyond. Our multidisciplinary teams and cancer services are here to form the leading line of defense in your fight against cancer. Reach out to us for an appointment today.