Diagnosis and tests for cancer in children

Diagnosis means finding out if your child has cancer and, if so, what type of cancer they have. Doctors will do this by assessing your child and their symptoms, and by doing tests.

Various tests and scans will be done to diagnose your child’s illness and to monitor your child throughout treatment. 

  • So that the cancer or leukaemia can be diagnosed accurately. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference between specific types of cancer. Your child’s doctor may talk to other doctors to ask their opinion and advice about the diagnosis.
  • To see where the cancer is in the body and whether or not it has spread.
  • To assess your child’s general health, as this may affect the treatment that is given.

Further tests may be needed before treatment begins. This may mean that treatment doesn’t start for a few days. Generally, cancer develops slowly, so delaying the start of treatment for a short time won’t make it less effective. It is important to know the type of cancer your child has and whether it has spread in the body. This information will help your doctor to choose the most effective treatment. 

With some types of cancer it is important to start treatment straight away. Your child’s doctor will discuss this with you.

Some of the more common tests are described below. Several of these may be carried out again during the course of treatment to see how well the treatment is working. Some tests can also be used to check for any side effects of treatment.

If your doctor thinks that a tumour may be cancerous, a surgeon may remove part of it to examine under a microscope.

The sample of cells is sent to a laboratory to be examined by a pathologist (a doctor who studies body tissues). They can tell if the sample is cancerous or not and, if it is, what type of cancer it is. It usually takes several days to get the results of a biopsy.

If your doctor thinks that a tumour may be cancerous, a surgeon may remove part of it to examine under a microscope.

The sample of cells is sent to a laboratory to be examined by a pathologist (a doctor who studies body tissues). They can tell if the sample is cancerous or not and, if it is, what type of cancer it is. It usually takes several days to get the results of a biopsy.

If your doctor thinks that a tumour may be cancerous, a surgeon may remove part of it to examine under a microscope.

The sample of cells is sent to a laboratory to be examined by a pathologist (a doctor who studies body tissues). They can tell if the sample is cancerous or not and, if it is, what type of cancer it is. It usually takes several days to get the results of a biopsy.

If your doctor thinks that a tumour may be cancerous, a surgeon may remove part of it to examine under a microscope.

The sample of cells is sent to a laboratory to be examined by a pathologist (a doctor who studies body tissues). They can tell if the sample is cancerous or not and, if it is, what type of cancer it is. It usually takes several days to get the results of a biopsy.

Scans

If your doctor thinks that a tumour may be cancerous, a surgeon may remove part of it to examine under a microscope.

The sample of cells is sent to a laboratory to be examined by a pathologist (a doctor who studies body tissues). They can tell if the sample is cancerous or not and, if it is, what type of cancer it is. It usually takes several days to get the results of a biopsy.

If your doctor thinks that a tumour may be cancerous, a surgeon may remove part of it to examine under a microscope.

The sample of cells is sent to a laboratory to be examined by a pathologist (a doctor who studies body tissues). They can tell if the sample is cancerous or not and, if it is, what type of cancer it is. It usually takes several days to get the results of a biopsy.

This information was written by the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG)

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