Cancers and Tumors

Tumor Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of Tumors

The symptoms of tumors depend on the type of tumor, where it is in the body and its size.

Some tumors may not cause any symptoms. Some may cause symptoms if they have invaded or are pressing on another structure, like a vital organ or a major nerve.

Tumors may form a lump that you, your child or a healthcare provider can see or feel. Some may be too deep to be seen or felt, but they may cause swelling or cause other structures to press outward or seem larger.

Tumor Diagnosis

If your child's doctor thinks they may have a tumor, the doctor will start with an exam and will ask about your child's health background. Then the doctor may suggest blood tests to help tell the type of tumor. Some tumors release chemicals called markers. Markers give details about the tumor cells and the kinds of treatment that may be effective.

Your child's doctor may also want to have pictures taken of the inside of your child's body, such as an X-ray, ultrasound, CT (computed tomography) scan, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or PET (positron emission tomography) scan. These are called imaging studies.

To learn more about your child's tumor, the doctor may ask for a biopsy. This will likely be the first point when our surgeons get involved in your child's care.

  • For the biopsy, your child's surgeon may remove only a small piece of the tumor (incisional biopsy). A pathologist will look at this sample under a microscope to diagnose the type of tumor. The biopsy results help guide treatment decisions, like whether the whole tumor needs to be removed.
  • In some cases, surgeons remove the entire tumor for biopsy (excisional biopsy). This depends on factors like the size of the tumor, where it is in the body and what type of tumor it appears to be.

Your child's doctor can explain which kind of biopsy is best for your child and why.

Read more about the symptoms and diagnosis of these types of tumors or other forms of cancer:

Also, read about symptoms and diagnosis of brain and spinal tumors treated by our Neurosurgery department and spinal tumors and bone and soft tissue tumors treated by our Orthopedics department.