Sarcoma Tests

Diagnosing sarcomas

Precise sarcoma tests are crucial for treatment planning, and City of Hope is equipped with state-of-the-art technologies and specialized staff to ensure an accurate, comprehensive diagnosis of these cancers.

Highlights of our screening and diagnosis services include:

  • Advanced imaging technology to better locate tumors and determine treatment response
  • Genomic and molecular profiling of the cancer, which can lead to more effective, less toxic treatments

How are sarcomas detected?

Your doctor may use the following tests to look for sarcomas:

  • Physical exam
  • Blood test
  • Bone scan X-ray
  • Biopsy: Examination of suspicious tissue — depending on its location, this may using a fine needle to extract a sample or surgically removing a small piece of the tissue.
  • CT or CAT (computed tomography) scan: This test involves taking a series of X-ray images to form a computer-generated image, which determines tumor size, location and spread. Special dyes may be used to enhance this scan.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan: This procedure uses radio waves and strong magnets to produce detailed images of the body’s tissues, including tumor size and location.
  • PET (positron emission tomography) scan: For this test, a small amount of radioactive sugar is injected into the bloodstream, followed by a radioactivity scan to detect cancer cells (which takes up sugar at a faster rate than normal cells.)
  • FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridization): A laboratory test that looks for genetic or chromosomal changes in the biopsied cells, which can be used to guide treatment.
  • Immunohistochemistry: A test that looks for antigens in biopsied tissue sample to help determine cancer type.

Based on the results of these tests, the cancer is then staged according to its size, number of lymph nodes affected and whether it has spread to nearby or distant organs. Generally, cancer caught in earlier stages will have better outcomes than those caught in advanced or metastasized stages.

What are the current screening guidelines for sarcomas?

There are currently no screening guidelines for sarcomas, since no screenings have been shown to lower risk of dying for people of average risk. However, your physician may recommend more vigorous monitoring if you are at a high risk of developing this disease, which includes:

  • Previous cancer therapy
  • Genetic conditions that elevate sarcoma risk
  • Family history of sarcoma