Diagnosing Musculoskeletal Tumors

We gather dedicated oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, physical rehabilitation experts and others in one place to focus on musculoskeletal tumors.

Tests and procedures used to detect and diagnose musculoskeletal tumors include:

  • Physical exam and history
  • Blood test
    The doctor may suggest a blood test to determine the level of an enzyme called alkaline phosphatase. A large amount of alkaline phosphatase can be found in the blood when the cells that form bone tissue are very active — when children are growing, when a broken bone is mending, or when disease or a tumor causes production of abnormal bone tissue. Because high levels of this enzyme can normally be found in growing children and adolescents, this test is not a completely reliable indicator of bone cancer.
  • X-ray
    An X-ray can show the location, size and shape of a bone tumor. If X-rays suggest that a tumor may be cancer, the doctor may recommend special imaging tests such as a bone scan, a CT (or CAT) scan, an MRI, or an angiogram.
  • CT or CAT (computerized axial tomography) scan
    A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed prior to the scan to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography or computerized tomography. A spiral or helical CT scan makes a series of very detailed pictures of areas inside the body using an X-ray machine that scans the body in a spiral path.
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
    MRI uses a magnet, radio waves and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging.
  • Biopsy
  • The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer. A physician may perform a needle biopsy or a small incisional biopsy to check for bone cancer. During a needle biopsy, a small hole is made in the bone and a sample of tissue is removed from the tumor with a needle-like instrument. In an incisional biopsy, a physician cuts into the tumor and removes a small sample of tissue.
  • Bone scan
    This procedure allows us to see if there are rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells, in the bone. A very small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein and travels through the bloodstream. The radioactive material collects in the bones and is detected by a scanner.