How a tumor is diagnosed

As serious as it is, cancer is usually not an emergency, urologic oncologist Srinivas Vourganti, MD, told visitors to the Upstate Cancer Center this spring.

Srinivas Vourganti, MD

Srinivas Vourganti, MD

A cancer diagnosis is a step-by-step process that has to be complete before exploring treatment options. If you rush to judgment with incomplete information, you may face unnecessary treatments or therapies that don’t jibe with your beliefs.

Vourganti said to think of a suspicious lump as a dog barking in your back yard. The bark could belong to a variety of dogs, from a toy poodle wearing a collar to a rottweiler foaming at the mouth or something else entirely. You won’t know for sure until you do some research.

Depending on the type of cancer suspected, that research will include a series of medical tests. If cancer is found, doctors work with laboratory specialists on TNM staging. This takes into account the tumor size (T), whether cancer has spread to the lymph nodes (N) and whether it has spread elsewhere, or metastasized (M).

They use TNM staging and other factors to help create an individual treatment plan.

This article appears in the summer 2015 issue of Cancer Care magazine.

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