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Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute

Gynecologic Cancer

Cancer Institute > Gynecologic Cancer > Advanced Diagnostics

Advanced Diagnostic Options

If a routine pelvic examination, Pap smear, or other screening reveals an abnormality, our team works together to ensure you get the appropriate follow-up testing and consultation. The specific tests will depend on the type of cancer.


To confirm whether cancer is present, it is necessary to remove a tissue sample and examine it under a microscope. This is called a biopsy. Whenever possible, our doctors use minimally invasive biopsy procedures that offer minimal scarring, reduced pain and risk of infection, and shorter recovery times. Biopsy procedures include:

  • Colposcopy: Examination of the cervix to look for abnormalities and/or to take a tissue sample.
  • Endocervical curettage: Removal of tissue from the lining of the canal inside the cervix.
  • Cone biopsy: Uses an electrical wire loop (loop electrosurgical excision procedure, or LEEP) or a surgical scalpel (cold knife cone biopsy) to remove a cone-shaped piece of tissue.
  • Endometrial biopsy: A flexible tube is used to remove a tissue sample from inside the uterus.
  • Dilation and curettage (D&C): Sample tissue from the uterine lining and inside the cervical canal is obtained.
  • Punch biopsy: A small section of vulvar tissue is removed for examination.
  • Ultrasound-guided needle biopsy
  • MRI-guided needle biopsy
  • Sentinel node biopsy: A dye is injected near a previously identified tumor to determine whether the cancer has spread to the lymphatic system.

Diagnostic imaging

Ovarian and endometrial cancers may involve different cell types. Laboratory tests and diagnostic imaging can help determine type of cancer and its stage, or how far it has spread, to help make decisions about surgical treatment. Diagnostic imaging options include:

  • Ultrasound imaging that uses the echoes from high-frequency sound waves to allow your doctor to see whether an abnormality is a tumor, a fibroid or a fluid-filled cyst.
  • Transvaginal ultrasound that uses a transducer placed inside the vagina to generate images of the uterus and endometrium.
  • X-rays
  • Computed tomography (CT) to detect abnormalities that would not show up on an X-ray.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to generate three-dimensional images that help determine the extent of the disease and detect any tumors that may be hidden.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan that uses radioactive-tagged sugar in the bloodstream to detect small tumors or to measure treatment results.
  • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP), or X-rays of the kidneys and urinary tract, taken with a contrast dye.

What’s next?

If you or your loved one is diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer, your care team will guide you through the treatment process with information and support. Our gynecologic oncologists will develop a custom treatment plan to address all your cancer-related needs.

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