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Diagnosis

The doctor performs a physical exam and may use the following procedures and tests to diagnose soft tissue sarcoma:

X-rays create images of areas inside the body on film.

Computed tomography (CT), a procedure that uses special x-ray equipment to obtain cross-sectional pictures of the body, can determine whether a soft tissue tumor has metastasized (spread) to the lung or abdomen. CT scans, also called CAT scans, can also be helpful in determining the size of the tumor and whether the tumor can be accessed through surgery.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a powerful magnet linked to a computer to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body. MRI scans can aid in diagnosis, particularly in helping to distinguish soft tissue sarcomas from benign tumors, as well as showing the extent of the tumor. MRIs are also used to monitor the patient after treatment to see if the tumor has recurred.

A biopsy is the removal of cells or tissue for examination by a pathologist. The pathologist studies tissue samples under a microscope or performs other tests on the cells or tissue. A biopsy is the only sure way to tell whether a person has cancer.

Specialized testing of the tumor cells for chromosomal alterations may also be conducted to aid in diagnosis.