Metastatic Cancer – Understanding Advanced Cancer

Diagnosis of cancer metastases

Cancer is diagnosed by careful history taking and clinical examination. Your doctor will ask you specific questions about the mass including its onset, duration and whether it is associated with other symptoms of cancer. They will then examine you and the mass if present. To diagnose metastasis, however, investigations are needed. Investigations are broadly classified into laboratory tests and imaging modalities.

Lab tests: Laboratory tests in cancer include routine investigations such as a complete blood count (CBC) as well as liver and kidney functions. In the case of metastasis, rapid deterioration may occur. Severe anemia is frequently seen and liver functions including bilirubin level may be affected if the liver is taken by metastases.

Tumor markers: You may have come across the term tumor markers regarding cancer diagnosis. They are chemical substances that are either produced by the cancer cells or other normal cells in response to the cancer. They are sometimes found in non-cancerous conditions and are notoriously bad at diagnosing cancer. Their main advantage is that they are good indicators of the aggressiveness of the cancer, its response to treatment, and its recurrence following successful therapy. A rapid elevation of the levels of some tumor markers can be an indicator of metastasis.