When a child is diagnosed with cancer, the parents and the child are usually in shock over the diagnosis, and this can make them feel totally lost and a sea because the general Jane or Joe Public does not really know that much about cancer, especially Childhood Cancer.

Their lives and all that they thought they knew has changed within a mere moment – they have to digest the bad news and the fact their lives are about to be taken over by this disease that can devastate whole families in so many ways.

Apart from the emotional, physical and financial stress, one also has to learn and deal with a lot of new medical terminology and scary and unfamiliar tests.

Various tests and procedures are done to determine precisely where cancer is situated in the body. Doctors generally perform a combination of tests; this combination will differ for each child because of the different types of cancer.

For any test that is performed, it’s important to understand:

  • Why the test/procedure is being done
  • How the results will influence treatment
  • What your child will experience during the test/procedure
  • What you can do to help prepare your child
  • Medicines to reduce pain during the test/procedure
  • Are there risks to performing the test/procedure?

Click on the Pictures below for a full explanation, video, possible side-effects and tips for parents

General Procedures


A biopsy is a test in which a small piece of tumor or tissue is taken out of the body to be examined for cancer cells. This procedure is done to determine the exact type of cancer that is present. A biopsy can also be done to determine whether the treatment has gotten rid of cancer cells or to monitor continued remission.

Central Lines

Maintaining intravenous (IV) access for children requiring chemotherapy is a challenge. There are devices available to make this process easier. The type of device chosen is dependent upon the type and duration of therapy and personal preference.

Kidney Tests

Kidney tests measure how well the kidneys are working, particularly what types of substances are being released into the urine, at what levels and how quickly. Different tests measure different functions of the kidneys

Lumbar Puncture (Spinal Tap)

A lumbar puncture, also called a spinal tap, is an image-guided procedure performed on the lower back which removes fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord to examine it for cancer cells or infection. A lumbar puncture may also be performed to inject medication into the spinal column. Children and adolescents are usually given anesthesia or sedation before a lumbar puncture is performed.

Pulmonary Function Test

Pulmonary function Tests (PFTs) are a group of tests that measure how well your lungs work. This includes how well you’re able to breathe and how effective your lungs are able to bring oxygen to the rest of your body. Your doctor may order these tests: if you’re having symptoms of lung problems.

Blood Tests

Blood Studies

Blood studies are tests that examine a patient’s blood. They are the most common tests done for cancer patients. They help doctors follow the course of a patient’s disease and select the right treatment dosage. Blood can be drawn in a variety of ways, depending on your child’s situation. The most common way to draw blood is to insert a needle into a vein. However, children undergoing chemotherapy may have a central venous line in place from which blood can be drawn.

Bone Marrow Aspiration

A bone marrow aspiration is a test to see if cells in the bone marrow are healthy. Bone marrow is the “factory” where blood cells are made. Bone marrow is found in the center of bones and is made up of both spongy bone and liquid marrow. For this test, a needle is placed in a bone (usually the hipbone) and a small amount of liquid bone marrow is pulled into a syringe (usually 1-3 teaspoons). It is sent to the laboratory to be tested for cancer cells.

Bone Marrow Biopsy

A bone marrow biopsy is used to study an actual piece of spongy bone marrow. It may be completed at the same time as a bone marrow aspirate. For this test, a needle is placed in a bone (usually the hipbone); a small piece of spongy bone marrow is removed and sent to the laboratory to be tested.

Imaging Tests

CT Scan

A CT (Computerised Tomography) scanner uses x-rays and a computer to make pictures of the inside of your body. It is similar to a plain x-ray however it takes lots of pictures of a section (cross sections) of your body instead of just one. The child may be asked to drink a special liquid or be given a special x-ray dye by an injection to make the scan more effective. The scanner has a round opening in the centre and a flat bed for the patient to lie on. While lying on the bed, it will slowly move into the opening where the pictures are taken. The movement is controlled by the CT staff.


An echocardiogram (echo) is a test that helps doctors evaluate the strength and function of a child’s heart. The test uses sound waves to create a picture of the heart.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

An MRI uses high frequency radio waves and a powerful magnetic field to construct images of virtually any part of the body and it is one of the most sensitive imaging tools available. Health care professionals use MRI scans to diagnose a variety of conditions, from torn ligaments to tumors. MRIs are very useful for examining the brain and spinal cord.


SPECT scans are similar to PET scans. They use a special camera to make 3-dimensional images of inside the body. SPECT scans are effective for getting information about blood flow to tissues and chemical reactions in the body. SPECT scans are often used for diagnosing and monitoring treatment for brain tumours and cancers affecting bones.


An ultrasound scan, sometimes called a sonogram, is a type of imaging procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of organs and structures inside the body. Health care professionals use it to view the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, liver, and other organs. An ultrasound scan can be also used to guide a surgeon during certain procedures.

Nuclear Medicine Scans

Bone Scan

A bone scan, also called a radionuclide scan, a scintigram or nuclear medicine scan, is a nuclear medicine imaging test that uses bone-seeking radioactive materials or tracers (radiopharmaceuticals) and a computer to create pictures of the bones to see if there is a tumor or infection present. A bone scan is a good way to view and document abnormal metabolic activity in the bones. It can find damage to the bones, determine whether cancer has spread to the bones from another area of the body, and monitor problems such as infection and trauma to the bones.

PET Scan

A positron emission tomography (PET) scan is a type of nuclear medicine imaging test that looks at tumour activity in the body. PET scans uses a uses a form of radioactive sugar called a tracer to create images of body function and metabolism and look for disease in the body. PET imaging can be used to evaluate normal and abnormal biological function of cells and organs.

Gallium Scan

A gallium scan is a nuclear medicine diagnostic test that uses a special camera to take images of specific tissues in the body. It looks for infection, swelling (inflammation), infection, or cancer in the body. It uses a radioactive material called gallium, but although gallium is radioactive, the risk of radiation exposure from this procedure is lower than from an X-ray or CT scan.


An MIBG scan is a nuclear imaging test that uses the radiopharmaceutical metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) to help locate and diagnose certain types of cancer in the body. MIBG is a substance that gathers in some tumors, particularly pheochromocytoma or neuroblastoma, which are tumours of specific types of nervous tissue.