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The University of Sydney Avondale College of Higher Education

Sydney Adventist Hospital
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Clinical Specialties - Cancer

Diagnosis & Referral

Our approach to cancer

Diagnosis of CancerAfter 115 years of caring for patients, we understand the importance of treating the "whole" person – mind, body and spirit. We appreciate that once diagnosed with cancer, the support (emotional and physical) that you receive right from the very beginning has a significant impact on your cancer experience throughout the treatment and beyond. This is our approach to cancer.

We know that no two patients and no two cancers are alike. Each deserves a personalised and comprehensive approach. Every cancer is different and every person’s treatment should be customised.

We know more about cancer today than we ever did before and the outcomes continue to improve. More than half of the people diagnosed with cancer today can be cured, and many others can live with a diagnosis of cancer.

At Sydney Adventist Hospital - fondly known as the San - we understand that being diagnosed with cancer can be a life-changing event. We understand that it can be a frightening and stressful experience for you and your loved ones. We have been pioneers in research and clinical trials for many years. Being at the forefront helps us to provide the best available and most up-to-date treatment plan for our patients.

The San Integrated Cancer Centre was designed to reduce stress by co-locating our medical, surgical and support services in close proximity to each other. This integrative approach is further extended to a collaborative treatment plan, personalised for each patient based on input from a team of experts. Our team of experts will take the time to understand your unique diagnosis and needs, then work together to develop a comprehensive treatment plan specifically for you and your needs.

Diagnosing cancer

The beginning of a cancer experience is full of unknowns and receiving a cancer diagnosis can be difficult to comprehend.

The path to a diagnosis of cancer can be quite varied. Suspicion of cancer may be raised because of symptoms, the result of routine screening in those without symptoms, or a chance finding when something else is being investigated. Once there is a suspicion of cancer then further investigations are necessary to confirm the diagnosis, and understand as much as possible about the cancer in order to determine the best treatment plan. Investigations may include blood tests, x-rays, imaging scans (CT, MRI, Ultrasound), radioisotope scans (nuclear medicine) and removal of tissue (biopsy) for examination by pathologists. 

All these are available at the San through San Radiology & Nuclear Medicine, San Pathology and our clinical specialists. San Radiologists use the latest imaging technologies to safely detect cancer, and San Pathologists use their advanced skills and techniques to accurately identify the type and stage of cancer you have. Supported more often than not by the latest and most accurate technology available they bring a tremendous amount of experience, and state of the art expertise to the diagnosis of all types of cancers.

Diagnostic Tests

Doctors may request a range of imaging tests to confirm a cancer diagnosis which can include x-rays, ultrasound, MRI, CT or PET scans. These comprehensive services are all on the hospital campus including our Nuclear Medicine service which provides PET, PET/CT and whole body bone scans, lymphoscintigraphy and a wide range of other tests. This comprehensive diagnostic, nuclear and interventional radiology service allows improved collaboration and support with our cancer services.

The San is also recognised as NSW’s only accredited Prostate MRI Centre of Excellence (Radbound) offering world-class diagnosis and greater clarity for your specialist and therefore more refined treatment options. Our specialists work in collaboration with each other and with you to offer you the most reliable personal treatment to control or cure your cancer.

Apart from blood samples and imaging tests, your doctor may arrange a biopsy. This is a small amount of tissue removed from the region where it is thought that cancer may exist. For most types of cancers, a biopsy is the only way to make an accurate diagnosis. Experienced pathologists then analyse the biopsy sample under a microscope looking at the appearance of cells to determine whether the tissue is benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). If the tissue is cancerous, pathologists conduct further tests to identify additional characteristics of the cancer, the likelihood of it spreading to other parts of the body, and to help identify specific treatments to target your particular cancer. Testing for genetic abnomalities or mutations and correlating these findings with clinical data may also help determine how well your tumour might respond to certain treatments.

The pathologist then compiles a report which is provided to your specialist and often discussed further at a multidisciplinary team meeting.

Click on the following links for more information on San Pathology and San Radiology & Nuclear Medicine.

Cancer Genetics

Diagnostic technology has advanced. It is possible to perform genetic testing on a small piece of a cancer. This is called somatic (tumour testing), and can help to sub-classify cancers and guide treatments. For example, if a specific gene abnormality is driving the growth of the cancer cells then a targeted therapy may be recommended. This is the case with HER2 overexpression and the use of Herceptin in breast cancer.

Another form of genetic testing looks for an inherited family predisposition to cancer. This kind of genetic testing is called germline testing and usually involves a blood sample.

If you are concerned about your own cancer, or have a family history of cancer, than an appointment with a genetic oncologist can be very helpful. Sydney Cancer Genetics (located in the Integrated Cancer Centre) at the San provides the following services:

  • Assessment of inherited risk
  • Genetic counselling and testing (including the BRCA genes and bulk-billed when possible)
  • Cancer prevention and risk management
  • Research trials

Click for further information on Sydney Cancer Genetics or Genetic Oncologist Dr Hilda High.

Becoming a Patient

Once you have seen a cancer specialist (who may be a surgeon, radiation or medical oncologist) and any additional physical and diagnostic tests have been completed to make an accurate cancer diagnosis, you will be directed to the best team to manage your cancer care.

The San's cancer experts are highly-skilled at treating a broad range of cancers and our Find a Specialist tool will assist you in choosing the right doctor to treat your particular cancer and accompany you throughout all phases of your cancer therapy. All of our cancer specialists work as part of a multi-disciplinary team who jointly contribute to personalising your treatment plan.


The San's cancer specialists are experts in diagnosis, research and treatment. Our Integrated Cancer Centre provides purpose-designed patient friendly facilities and the integrative care model ensures that all patients are at the centre of what we do.

If you are a medical practitioner and want to refer a patient, please search our Find a Specialist tool for our medical oncologists, surgical oncologists or other doctors by specialty.

If you are a patient and wish to see a cancer specialist please use our Find a Specialist search tool. For medical oncology you can contact Northern Haematology Oncology Group (NHOG) and for radiation oncology you can contact Icon Wahroonga. To access these services you will require a referral.

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Sydney Adventist Hospital Clinical Specialties and Services