Breast cancer, along with lung cancer is the top killer of women. Mammograms and other tests are available to screen for cancer when it is at an early stage, so that you can take care of it at the first-signs. In this article, you will learn about what tests are available and what they do, such as breast MRI, mammogram and biopsy. You will also learn how to receive your test results and keep track of your medical records.
Test for breast cancer
1. Breast Self Examination
You can do a self examination easily in the privacy of your own home. The breast self-exam entails you observing and feeling the breast tissues in a certain way—in order to properly detect changes in the density, color and texture—this is also where you may find lumps that may be a sign of cancer.
Breast Cancer - Breast Check Demonstration:
2. Clinical Breast Exam
The clinical breast exam is much like the self-exam done by yourself at home. The clinical breast exam is done by a physician to check for discoloration of the areola around the nipple as well as lumps and bumps. The entire chest area is examined by way of palpation which is a tapping method which will tell the doctor if there is any unusual firmness in the glands in the chest from the breasts to the collar-bone. The lymph glands beneath the armpit are also checked as well as any discharge from the nipple. Additional testing may include analyzing samples of discharge from the breasts.
The mammogram is a testing method which will take two x ray views from different angles of the breasts. This is an ideal test for those that are asymptomatic—meaning that they are devoid of having any symptoms or signs that there is anything wrong in the breasts.
Sometimes if the doctor sees something that they think need extra investigation, they will order a spot or cone view. This is a shot taken of a particular area from different angles that helps the doctor better evaluate abnormal breast tissue and decide the next step in the process—such as biopsy.
4. Breast Ultrasound
A breast ultrasound is a test which uses the fluid in your body to send back a picture of what is going on inside. This procedure does not include the use of radiation. The area of the breast to be examined is lubricated with a gel that assists the sonographer to move the wand cross the area so that the sound waves can send back a picture of the inside of the breast.
Ultrasound is generally used after the mammogram is already done. If the doctor sees a spot he or she finds suspicious then ultrasound may be used as a subsequent test. Ultrasound is helpful in telling the difference between a tumor and a cyst which is nothing more than a liquid-filled sac and can be treated. However, in the case of a tumor, ultrasound can help the doctor decide if it is a benign or malignant tumor.
A biopsy is when a sample of the tissue is taken and then inspected by a pathologist who will make a report of the findings which will be given to the oncologist (cancer doctor). If you want to know more about what is on your report—you can go to breast pathology report or call 1-800-227-2345.
The type of biopsy done is decided with the patient. Certain factors must be considered before the test can be done such as total health of the patient, where the lesion is located, number of lesions etc.
6. MRI—Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging
This is a test which requires a bit of time. It uses magnets to translate images back to a computer. The patient is injected with a substance called gadolinium. This substance travels to the area that needs to be imaged to make it dark enough to show up.
After you are injected you will lie flat on a sliding table and placed in a long tube. It may take up to an hour or more for all the pictures to take place. You will be asked to stay completely still during the exam. Most MRI clinics will offer head phones with music or light atmospheric sounds so you are distracted and relaxed through the process.
7. Ductal Lavage
Ductal lavage is a test in the experimental phase and is used for women who have high risk of breast cancer but don’t have any symptoms yet. This is a simple procedure that can be performed in a doctor’s office or on an outpatient basis in a hospital.
An anesthetic cream will be applied to the nipple area. Then a suction device will gently and painlessly draw fluid from the milk ducts so that the doctor can locate them. Then a catheter is inserted into a duct and saline (salt-water) solution is injected and cells are collected. The cells are observed in a lab and results are given to the doctor and discussed with the patient.