All Medical Procedures

The PSA test is used primarily to screen for prostate cancer. A PSA test measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in your blood. PSA is a protein produced in the prostate, a small gland that sits below a man's bladder. PSA is mostly found in semen, which also is produced in the prostate. Small amounts of PSA ordinarily circulate in the blood.

The PSA test can detect high levels of PSA that may indicate the presence of prostate cancer. However, many other conditions, such as an enlarged or inflamed prostate, can also increase PSA levels.

There is a lot of conflicting advice about PSA testing. Ultimately, whether you have a PSA test is something you should decide after discussing it with your doctor, considering your risk factors and weighing your personal preferences.

A Pap smear, also called a Pap test, is a procedure to test for cervical cancer in women. A Pap smear involves collecting cells from your cervix — the lower, narrow end of your uterus that's at the top of your vagina.

Detecting cervical cancer early with a Pap smear gives you a greater chance at a cure. A Pap smear can also detect changes in your cervical cells that suggest cancer may develop in the future. Detecting these abnormal cells early with a Pap smear is your first step in halting the possible development of cervical cancer.

A positron emission tomography (PET) scan is an imaging test that helps reveal how your tissues and organs are functioning. A PET scan uses a radioactive drug (tracer) to show this activity.

The tracer may be injected, swallowed or inhaled, depending on which organ or tissue is being studied by the PET scan. The tracer collects in areas of your body that have higher levels of chemical activity, which often correspond to areas of disease. On a PET scan, these areas show up as bright spots.

A PET scan is useful in revealing or evaluating several conditions, including some cancers, heart disease and brain disorders.

A prostate biopsy is a procedure to remove samples of suspicious tissue from the prostate. The prostate is a small, walnut-shaped gland in men that produces fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.

During a prostate biopsy, also called a core needle biopsy, a fine needle is used to collect a number of tissue samples from your prostate gland. A prostate biopsy is performed by a doctor who specializes in the urinary system and men's sex organs (urologist).

Your urologist may recommend a prostate biopsy if results from initial tests, such as a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test or digital rectal exam (DRE), suggest you may have prostate cancer.

Following a prostate biopsy, tissue samples from the prostate biopsy are examined under a microscope for cell abnormalities that are a sign of prostate cancer. If cancer is present, it is evaluated to determine how quickly it's likely to grow and spread and to determine your best treatment options.

Prostate brachytherapy (brak-e-THER-uh-pee) is a form of radiation therapy used to treat prostate cancer. Prostate brachytherapy involves placing devices containing radiation in the prostate gland close to the cancer cells.

Prostate brachytherapy procedures vary based on the type of radiation you'll receive. Temporary prostate brachytherapy involves placing radioactive wires in the prostate gland for several minutes before the wires are removed. Permanent prostate brachytherapy involves placing radioactive seeds in the prostate gland permanently, where they slowly release radiation.

The goal of prostate brachytherapy is to place the radiation close to the cancer cells, where the radiation can kill the cancer cells while causing less damage to healthy tissue nearby. Prostate brachytherapy side effects can include difficulty urinating and erectile dysfunction.

Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses beams of intense energy to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy most often gets its power from X-rays, but the power can also come from protons or other types of energy.

The term "radiation therapy" most often refers to external beam radiation therapy. During this type of radiation, the high-energy beams come from a machine outside of your body that aims the beams at a precise point on your body. During a different type of radiation treatment called brachytherapy (brak-e-THER-uh-pee), radiation is placed inside your body.

Radiation therapy damages cells by destroying the genetic material that controls how cells grow and divide. While both healthy and cancerous cells are damaged by radiation therapy, the goal of radiation therapy is to destroy as few normal, healthy cells as possible.

Radiation therapy for breast cancer uses high-powered X-rays to kill cancer cells. Rapidly growing cells, such as cancer cells, are more susceptible to the effects of radiation therapy than are normal cells.

One of two approaches may be used with radiation therapy for breast cancer:

  • External radiation. External beam radiation, the standard type of radiation therapy, delivers radiation in the form of high-powered energy beams, such as X-rays, to your entire breast from a machine outside your body. This is the most common type of radiation therapy used for breast cancer.
  • Internal radiation. Internal radiation (brachytherapy) involves temporarily placing small radioactive devices in your breast near the tumor site to deliver radiation to affected breast tissue. Internal radiation may be used as an extra radiation boost after external radiation or for small, contained tumors.

Radiation therapy may be used to treat breast cancer at almost every stage. It's an effective way to reduce your risk of breast cancer recurring after surgery. It can also help control the spread of breast cancer and offer pain relief for advanced breast cancer.

Sentinel node biopsy is a surgical procedure used to determine if cancer has spread beyond a primary tumor into your lymphatic system. Sentinel node biopsy is used most commonly in evaluating breast cancer and melanoma.

The sentinel nodes are the first few lymph nodes into which a tumor drains. Sentinel node biopsy involves injecting a tracer material that helps the surgeon locate the sentinel nodes during surgery. The sentinel nodes are removed and analyzed in a laboratory. If the sentinel nodes are free of cancer, then cancer isn't likely to have spread and removing additional lymph nodes is unnecessary.

If, after sentinel node biopsy, evaluation of the sentinel nodes reveals cancer, then you'll likely need additional lymph nodes removed for your doctor to determine how far the cancer has spread.

A skin biopsy removes cells or skin samples from the surface of your body. The sample taken from a skin biopsy is examined to provide information about your medical condition. A doctor uses a skin biopsy to diagnose or rule out certain skin conditions and diseases.

Three main types of skin biopsies are:

  • Shave biopsy. A doctor uses a tool similar to a razor to remove a small section of the top layers of skin (epidermis and a portion of the dermis).
  • Punch biopsy. A doctor uses a circular tool to remove a small section of skin including deeper layers (epidermis, dermis and superficial fat).
  • Excisional biopsy. A doctor uses a small knife (scalpel) to remove an entire lump or an area of abnormal skin, including a portion of normal skin down to or through the fatty layer of skin.

Urine cytology is a test to look for abnormal cells in your urine. Urine cytology is used along with other tests and procedures to diagnose urinary tract cancers.

Urine cytology is most often used to diagnose bladder cancer, though it may also detect cancers of the kidney, prostate, ureter and urethra.

Your doctor may recommend a urine cytology test if blood has been detected in your urine (hematuria).

Urine cytology may also be used in people who have already been diagnosed with bladder cancer and have undergone treatment. In these cases, a urine cytology test may help detect a bladder cancer recurrence.