Pathology is the speciality about the study and causes of disease and is integral in the diagnosis of cancer. It is the examination of changes in the tissues, in the blood or other body fluids. Some of these changes show the presence or severity or monitor its progress or the effects of treatment. The pathology team uses blood or other tissue samples to help diagnose the tumour type and can help determine likely prognosis and inform the clinicians about the most appropriate management for a cancer.
Radiology is a speciality that uses different kinds of imaging to diagnose and treat disease. These include computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, mammography, ultrasound and interventional radiology.
Diagnostic nuclear medicine, also known as molecular imaging, is a form of medical imaging that uses tiny amounts of radioactive chemicals called radiotracers. These are usually injected into the arm, allowing the specialist to see where the radiotracers are localised in your body, providing information about the function of cells, tissues and organs. The results enable doctors to provide an accurate diagnosis of a variety of cancers. The types of nuclear medicine scans are positron emission tomography (PET) and bone scans.
Bone marrow biopsy
Your specialist may order a bone marrow biopsy as part of diagnosing your blood cancer. This is a day procedure and takes place in an outpatient clinic. You will be provided with information beforehand, and after discussing the risks and benefits with your doctor, asked to sign a consent form. The bone marrow team will direct you to lie on your side on a bed, and you will be given some local anaesthetic and/or an inhaling anaesthetic (the “green whistle”). This takes effect quite quickly. The bone marrow biopsy will then proceed, and the doctor will take samples from your bone marrow, typically from the hip area. The samples are sent for testing, and a dressing will be placed on your skin. You will be asked to lie still for a period of observation time. Then as long as you feel well, you can go home. The results can take a week or so to come back. Bone marrow biopsies are also useful in reassessing whether treatment has been effective on your blood cancer, or whether another treatment is indicated.