Not all symptoms are caused by cancer. Your GP or specialist will send you for tests to check what is causing your symptoms.
Your doctors should explain why you are having the tests and what they involve.
What you need to know
Reasons for tests
Your GP will examine you and send you for tests before you see a specialist. These initial tests are to see if your symptoms are caused by cancer or by something else.
If you do have a cancer, the specialist you see will probably send you for tests to find out more about it. This includes finding out the type of cells the cancer started in and whether it has spread.
Tests for soft tissue sarcoma
The GP will talk to you about your symptoms and examine you.
If you have a lump, the GP will send you for tests to get more information about it.
If the GP is concerned about the lump or any other symptoms, they will refer you to a specialist who will arrange a biopsy and further tests to assist in diagnosis.
Tests to investigate the lump may include:
- ultrasound examination
- CT scan
- MRI scan.
If you have other symptoms, you may need different tests depending on what the symptoms are.
Biopsies for soft tissue sarcoma
A biopsy is when a doctor removes a small piece of the lump or area that might be cancer. A pathologist looks at this under a microscope to see if it is a sarcoma.
There are different ways of taking biopsies, including:
- fine needle aspiration – uses a small needle to collect cells or fluid from a lump
- core biopsy – uses a larger needle to remove a small piece of the lump
- surgical – removes all of a lump (excisional biopsy) or part of a lump (incisional biopsy)
- endoscopic – uses cutting tools to collect a sample through an endoscope.
Sometimes biopsies may need to be repeated to collect more tissue for testing.
Whenever possible, biopsies for sarcoma should be taken and reviewed by doctors who specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of sarcoma.
What to ask or talk about
Preparing for tests
Going for tests can make some people nervous, but knowing what to expect can help.
Your GP or specialist should tell you why you need each test and what it involves. Use our checklists to help you know what to ask.
Sometimes you need to contact the place where you are having the test for more information. This can include how to prepare for the test, how much it will cost and what you will get back from Medicare and your private health fund.
Ask how long it will take before you hear the results of the test.
Getting test results
It is normal to feel anxious when you are waiting for test results.
Your GP or specialist should tell you when the results will be ready and how you will find out about them. Usually you need to make an appointment to get the results.
It is a good idea to take someone with you when you go for this appointment.