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Laboratory tests are an analysis of:
- tissue samples
- other substances
There are many different types of laboratory tests:
|Type of test||Example|
other body fluid tests
Why a laboratory test is done
Many laboratory tests can be used as a part of a routine checkup. A laboratory test may be done to:
- provide information about a person’s general health
- measure amounts of certain substances in the body
- screen for cancer
- help diagnose a person who has symptoms of cancer or other diseases
When a condition or disease such as cancer is diagnosed, laboratory tests may also be used to:
- help plan treatment
- evaluate the response to treatment
- monitor the course of the condition over time
How a laboratory test is done
Preparation depends on the type of test being done.
- The person will be told about any special preparation that could affect test results, such as not eating or taking certain medications.
Samples of blood, urine, tissue or other types of body fluids are taken and sent to a laboratory to be analyzed or examined under a microscope.
What the results mean
Results are usually measured in numbers.
Some tests provide a simple positive or negative result, but many tests give results that must be compared to a normal reference range or to results from previous tests to have meaning.
Normal test values are usually given as a range rather than as a specific number because normal values vary from person to person and laboratory to laboratory.
Many factors can affect test results, including:
- medical history
- general health
- specific foods or drugs the person is taking
- how closely the person was able to follow pre-test instructions
Tissue examination can reveal what type of cells are seen and if cancer cells are present or not.
Some laboratory tests are precise, reliable indicators of specific health problems. Others provide more general information that simply gives doctors clues to possible health problems. Information obtained from laboratory tests may help doctors decide whether other tests or procedures are needed to make a diagnosis. The information may also help the doctor develop or revise treatment plans.
All laboratory results must be interpreted in the context of the overall health of the person and are generally used along with other examinations or tests. A doctor familiar with the person’s medical history and condition is best able to explain test results and what they mean.
What happens if a change or abnormality is found
The doctor will decide if more tests, procedures, follow-up care or additional treatment are needed.
Seeing my sister Erin – a young mother – struggle with the emotional blow and then the physical toll of cancer treatment made me want to do something to help women feel confident.
Establishing a national caregivers strategy
The Canadian Cancer Society is actively lobbying the federal government to establish a national caregivers strategy to ensure there is more financial support for this important group of people.