Imaging tests, such as X-rays and computer tomography scans, and biopsies, such as a needle biopsy and a surgical bone biopsy, are some of the tests used to diagnose bone cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. The doctor may also order a blood test to determine the levels of the alkaline phosphate enzyme, reports the National Cancer Institute.
X-rays show the size, shape and location of the bone tumor, notes the National Cancer Institute. The bone tumor may appear as a hole in the bone, or the site may look ragged, according to the American Cancer Society.
A computer tomography scan provides details images that help doctors stage bone cancer and determine if it has spread to other organs, reports the American Cancer Society. A magnetic resonance imaging scan is ideal for outlining the bone tumor. Radionuclide bone scan help determine how far the bone cancer has spread and can detect metastasis earlier than X-rays. It can also show how much damage the cancer has inflicted on the bone.
During a positron emission tomography scan, the doctor injects radioactive sugar into the patient and uses the scanner to see areas where the glucose is used up, according to the National Caner Institute. Cancer cells have a high rate of metabolism and absorb more glucose than normal cells. Doctors also use the PET scan to differentiate between benign and cancerous tumors, notes the American Cancer Society.
In needle biopsies, the doctor uses a needle to make a hole in the bone and collect a sample for further examination, reports the National Cancer Institute. During incisional biopsies, the surgeon makes an incision in the skin and removes part or all of the bone tumor for further examination.