Diagnosis of breast cancer can only be done by a doctor and that to only after conducting a series of tests. Therefore, if you notice a lump or something out of place in your breast, the best thing to do is make an appointment with a doctor. The doctor will advise you to undergo series of diagnostic tests to determine whether you have breast cancer or not.
Diagnosis Of Breast Cancer
Clinical Breast Examination
A clinical breast examination is basically a physical examination of your breasts. The doctor will check your breast and see whether the lump that you reported feels like a cancerous one or not. Your breasts will be physically scrutinized to determine if there is anything abnormal or suspicious that requires further tests. The area under your armpit and above your collarbones will also be scanned thoroughly. Palpitation of this area will help the doctor figure out if cancer has spread to this area or not.
If a lump was found in your breast, the doctor will then advise you to go for a mammogram. A mammogram helps the doctor to determine whether a lump is cancerous or not. Moreover, it helps to determine the presence of cysts, fibroadenomas, calcifications, and hematomas. It just might turn out that the suspicious looking lump or area that your doctor noticed during the physical examination of your breast might be a cyst or calcification.
What is Mammogram?
A mammogram is basically an X-ray of your breast. During a mammogram, compression is applied to the breasts to create clear images. The images will be taken from different views.
Photo Credit: http://www.infobarrel.com/Breast_screening
Mediolateral Oblique View In this, the main area of your breasts and the area under your armpit are imaged. Breast glandular tissue and the fatty tissue are imaged in detail.
Cranio Caudal View
This view covers the glandular tissue, the fatty tissues which surround the glandular tissue, and the edge of the chest muscle. This view also covers the nipple; however, it does not cover the breast tissue in the upper breast and the lymph nodes in the armpit.
In this diagnostic mammogram, the view will start from your breast’s center and end on the outside.
This view is imaged for diagnostic purpose. The view in this image will start from outside and end in the center of your breast.
Certain suspicious areas in your breasts will be subjected to detailed investigation. The doctor will compress the concerned area of your breast to get a detailed image in the mammogram.
In order to view the edges of cysts, lumps, calcifications, fibroids and other structures, a magnified view will be taken.
For this view both of your breasts will be compressed in order to take an image of the breast tissue located in and around the center of your chest. If the mammograms suggest something suspicious or confirm the presence of cancer, your doctor will advise you to go for an ultrasound.
In an ultrasound scan of your breast, high frequency sound waves will be transmitted through the glandular breast tissue to create an image. These sound waves will create echoes as they rebound from your breast tissue.
These echoes will be recorded on a computer and an image will be produced. Ultrasound scans are able to create images which provide high contrast. A solid lump will be clearly distinguishable from a non-malignant lump in an ultrasound scan.
A doctor might advise MRI scan to get more details of your breast, to make sure that the lump is definitely cancerous, to see whether there are other cancerous areas in the breast and/or to determine the size of the tumor.
What is MRI?
MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. Magnets and radio waves are used in MRI scans to create an image of the concerned body part.
MRI Breast Scan Process
MRI breast scans are done using a machine that is specifically designed for the purpose. Gadolinium will be injected into your vein before or during the scan. Gadolinium is a liquid that will help to contrast your breast tissue from the tumor. You will be asked to lie face down in a narrow tube.
Your breasts will be placed in the two openings in the platform of the MRI machine. You will have to lie very still while the images are being taken. The whole process can last up to an hour. Besides being subjected to diagnostic imaging tests, you might be required to go for pathological tests to determine the presence of cancer.
Ductal Lavage Fluid Test
This test is especially for women who have nipple discharge. Women who are considered at high risk for developing breast cancer are also recommended by their doctors to undergo this test.
In this test, a pathologist will insert a very thin tube into an opened duct in your nipple. Fluid will be drawn from the duct. The fluid will then be tested for cancerous cell.
Even if the ultrasound, mammogram and MRI scan have confirmed the presence of cancerous cells, your doctor will still recommend a biopsy test. This is because a biopsy can confirm hundred percent whether you have breast cancer or not.
Photo Credit: http://edition.channel5belize.com/archives/59418
In a biopsy, a sample of the suspicious breast tissue will be taken and tested for the presence of cancerous cells. There are four types of biopsies that are commonly used for diagnosis of breast cancer.
Core Needle Breast Biopsy
You will first be given local anesthesia to numb the concerned area. A needle with a hollow core will then be inserted to remove little bit of tissue from the lump or suspicious tissue area. This sample is then sent for testing.
Fine Needle Aspiration
Fine needle aspiration is done to determine whether the lump is a cyst (filled with liquid) or a solid mass. If it is a cyst, then the liquid will be drained out. If it is a solid lump, then some tissue sample will be taken and sent to lab for testing.
When the lump is too deep inside or cannot be felt with hands, the doctor will recommend stereotactic biopsy. The doctor will use the mammograms in order to reach the lump with the help of a needle. The tissue sample is then sent to a lab. This biopsy is also done under local anesthesia and can leave some scar.
Surgical Breast Biopsy
This is done in a hospital. In this the surgeon will remove the tissue sample surgically. This type of biopsy often provides the most accurate result. These are some of main diagnostic tests that you will have to undergo in order to determine whether you have breast cancer or not. It is natural to feel anxious during this time. However, this basic knowledge of diagnostic test will help you get through calmly.
Photo Credit: https://myhealth.alberta.ca/health/pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=zm6300&