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Diagnostic Tests

Cancer Center

BID Plymouth Cancer Services
275 Sandwich Street
Plymouth, MA 02360

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About Our Diagnostic Tests for Cancer

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

An MRI is a type of medical imaging technology that uses magnetic fields. A person is placed in a strong magnetic field to make certain atoms in the body produce signals which are detected by special radio equipment and then used to create a diagnostic image.

A full range of MRI procedures are offered, including: multiplanar imaging of the head, neck, chest, abdomen, pelvis, spine and joints. Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) is provided for evaluation of the abdominal, chest, neck, extremity and intracranial vessels.


Mammography is a type of imaging that uses a low-dose x-ray system for examination of the breasts. Mammography is offered to all patients for screening and diagnostic purposes at the Beth Israel Lahey Health Breast Center – Plymouth.

Computerized Tomography (CT)

A computed tomography scan is an imaging method that uses x-rays to create cross-sectional pictures of the body. A full range of Computerized Tomography (CT) procedures are offered at Beth Israel Deaconess - Plymouth. Two helical scanners produce cross sectional images of any anatomical area of interest. This technology also provides extremely rapid scanning. Intravenous CT contrast is administered as needed. A separate workstation provides 3D and CT Angiography capability.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

PET imaging adds a new dimension and sensitivity to the evaluation of cancer patients. While CT scans show structural details of the body in cross-sections, PET images can detect the difference between diseased and healthy tissues, based on the particles they emit. This allows physicians to more sensitively localize a tumor and be able to asses a tumor’s response to therapy. A full range of Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging procedures is offered through a mobile unit.


Ultrasound examinations utilize high frequency sound waves to create cross sectional images of soft tissue organs. There is no radiation involved with this test. Sonographers (specially trained technologists) produce images in the abdomen and pelvis as well as the breast, thyroid, testicles, the pregnant uterus and the veins in the extremities.

All exams require warm gel to be applied to the area of evaluation. A small instrument is placed on the skin to generate images. Some gynecologic ultrasounds require an internal scan as well. The exam is painless.


Biopsy is the surgical removal of a small sample of tissue for purposes of diagnosis. When a physical exam, imaging, endoscopy, or laboratory test reveals an abnormality, a biopsy may be the only sure way to know whether the problem is, in fact, cancer.


A diagnostic process that analyzes tissue to determine a disease state. In a biopsy, a doctor removes a sample of tissue from the abnormal area. (Doctors may also remove the whole tumor.) A specialist trained to examine such tissues is called a pathologist. A pathologist examines the tissue under a microscope. If cancer is present, the pathologist can usually tell what kind of cancer it is and may be able to judge whether the cells are likely to grow slowly or quickly.

Genetic Screening & Counseling

A Tufts Medical Center geneticist is available at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital–Plymouth to provide information about appropriate screening tests and strategies to reduce cancer risk.