Initial diagnosis

Diagnosis means finding out if your child has cancer and finding out which type of cancer as well. 
Childhood cancers often have early symptoms commonly seen in other illnesses including:

  • fever
  • feeling tired
  • swollen glands
  • weight loss
  • bruising 
  • tender joints or bones. 

When these signs and symptoms last or are severe, the doctor may order tests to check for cancer or other illnesses. Tests are used to diagnose cancer, see if it has spread to other parts of the body and to determine the best treatment. 

The type of test done depends on your child’s symptoms, age, medical history and the type of cancer doctors think it may be.

For some cancers, a diagnosis can be made within a day or so. Other cancers may require further tests to make the correct diagnosis. 

A physical examination and blood tests

These tests would usually be done by your regular doctor. If results of these examinations and tests are of concern, you will be referred to an oncologist (cancer doctor). 

Scans - imaging tests that make pictures of areas inside the body

Types of scans include CT scan, MRI, PET scan, x-ray, and ultrasound. A radiologist is a doctor who reviews the scans and sends a report of the findings to your child’s doctor.

Tissue biopsy 

Some cells need to be taken from the child so that they can be examined under the microscope. This procedure is called a tissue biopsy. The biopsy can be done in two ways. 

  • open biopsy: the skin is opened during surgery and the surgeon removes a sample of tissue. 
  • closed biopsy: a needle is inserted into the tissue without cutting open the skin (for example, a fine needle aspirate or a core biopsy).
Last updated Wednesday 26th June 2024