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Diagnosis

 
Diagnosis

Chapter: 4 - Diagnosis

Subchapter: 3 - Diagnostic Methods

Breast Health Awareness
Becoming familiar with your breasts and knowing what is normal for you will help you detect changes or abnormalities, if they occur. This is breast health awareness.

The initial sign of breast cancer may involve a new lump or change in the breast. A new nipple inversion, an area of significant irritation or redness, dimpling or thickening of the breast skin, and persistent breast pain or discomfort are reasons to seek prompt medical evaluation.

Breast Self-Exam
A breast self-exam is an examination of the breasts for changes or abnormalities. A self breast-exam should be performed monthly and any changes or abnormalities should be discussed with your doctor or physician. For more information about how to perform a breast self-exam, please visit http://nbcf.org.

Clinical Breast Exam
A clinical breast exam is an exam preformed by a qualified nurse or doctor; they will check for lumps or other physical changes in the breast. The goal is to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages, either by evaluating the patient’s symptoms or finding breast abnormalities.

Mammogram
Having a regularly scheduled mammogram, the standard diagnostic scan, is especially important. A mammogram is an x-ray; the breast is exposed to a small dose of iodizing radiation that produces an image of the breast tissue.

If your mammogram or a clinical exam detects a suspicious site, further investigation is always necessary. Although lumps are usually non-cancerous, the only way to be certain is to obtain additional tests, such as an ultrasound. If a solid mass appears on the ultrasound, your radiologist may recommend a biopsy, a procedure in which cells are removed from a suspicious area to check for the presence of cancer.

Early Detection Plan®
Because early detection is so vital, the National Breast Cancer Foundation offers women the Early Detection Plan®, an online tool that helps remind you to schedule a breast self-exam, clinical breast exam, and mammogram. Because of the demands of everyday life, it’s easy to forget or even fear these exams; which is why this program exists. You can subscribe to receive alerts by e-mail, text message, and even through an RSS feed. It only takes 60 seconds to create an Early Detection Plan, but it could save your life.

Ultrasound and MRI
As we mentioned previously, when a suspicious site is detected in your breast, your doctor may require an ultrasound of the breast tissue. An ultrasound is a scan that uses sound waves to paint a picture of what’s going on inside of the body. Ultrasounds are helpful when a lump is easily felt and can be used to further evaluate any abnormalities discovered on a mammogram.

Each exam will provide a different perspective. When your initial exams are not conclusive, your doctor may recommend an MRI to asses the extent of the disease. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a scan of the body that uses magnetic energy and radio waves, rather than radiation, to view organs and tissues in the body.

Related Questions

  • Thumb avatar default

    I just had a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. My doctor said he is over 95% certain I have cancer. Is it normal to be able to tell just from mammogram and ultrasound? Does that mean I have a large tumor?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 3 years 4 answers
    • View all 4 answers
    • Betti A Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2013

      Drs. trained in reading studies can usually tell by the films they look at but the only way to see what it truly is is to do a biopsy.

      Comment
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      I, too, was told "Expect the biopsy to come back as breast cancer." Many times, the shape and density, of the suspicious area is telling. My tumor was a very weird shape, it was very hard, and felt lumpy. It was not at all like other lumps I had felt in my breasts. I knew, the second I found...

      more

      I, too, was told "Expect the biopsy to come back as breast cancer." Many times, the shape and density, of the suspicious area is telling. My tumor was a very weird shape, it was very hard, and felt lumpy. It was not at all like other lumps I had felt in my breasts. I knew, the second I found it, it was bad. Doctors who look at hundreds and hundreds of lumps each and every day can tell a lump that is classic for breast cancer. There are also time when they can be wrong and that is why a biopsy is needed to confirm their suspicions. There are so many treatments for breast cancers, it is not the death sentence it once was. Hang in there and take care, Sharon

      Comment
  • Linda Green Profile

    Is it unusual to have a variance in tumor measurement between ultrasound and MRI? Picked up MRI report this afternoon and noticed they measured tumor as 1.8 cm vice 1.2 cm. Of course, first thought was oh crap, did it grow that much in two weeks?

    Asked by anonymous

    Patient
    about 8 years 3 answers
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      The MRI can pick up much more detail. Some malignant tumors aren't evenly shaped and maybe that would be where the discrepancy is showing up. Never be afraid to call the office that did the MRI and ask to speak to a doctor. It's their job to know the answers to those types of questions.

      Comment
    • Thumb avatar default
      anonymous
      Stage 1 Patient

      It is also because of the way that you are positioned in the MRI machine. If you were lying on your stomach for the MRI with your breasts hanging down through the MRI table it is going to change the shape of your breast therefore making the measurements different then when you were lying on your...

      more

      It is also because of the way that you are positioned in the MRI machine. If you were lying on your stomach for the MRI with your breasts hanging down through the MRI table it is going to change the shape of your breast therefore making the measurements different then when you were lying on your back for the ultrasound.

      Comment
  • J ARCHER Profile

    I had my first mammogram last Tues. and "more images" needed, then got "8 sample core biopsy" for "amorphous calcium deposits" Anyone had this and gotten great benign news?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    almost 8 years 4 answers
    • View all 4 answers
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      I have had three friends have biopsy's because of these specks of calcium and their tests came back benign. They were all in their 50's. Another friend age 44 had the same thing and it came back DCIS. She is just completely her treatment which consisted of a mastectomy but no other treatment. ...

      more

      I have had three friends have biopsy's because of these specks of calcium and their tests came back benign. They were all in their 50's. Another friend age 44 had the same thing and it came back DCIS. She is just completely her treatment which consisted of a mastectomy but no other treatment. She is in the process of having reconstruction. She had to have a mastectomy because it was so wide spread. Hang in there and take care, Sharon

      Comment
    • Bonnie Irwin Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      I am 41. I went in for my first mammogram and they found areas of concern. So after ultrasound and biopsies they said it was DCIS. Everyone said if you were to have cancer, this is the one to have. It is considered stage zero. Before they would perform the lumpectomy they ordered an MRI to...

      more

      I am 41. I went in for my first mammogram and they found areas of concern. So after ultrasound and biopsies they said it was DCIS. Everyone said if you were to have cancer, this is the one to have. It is considered stage zero. Before they would perform the lumpectomy they ordered an MRI to make sure there wasn't anything else and to verify the size of the DCIS. The MRI showed up against my chest wall was a small tumor. The biopsy after that showed to be invasive breast cancer. Just like that, everything changed. The mammogram did not see this. Now I have had a mastectomy on the left side. The MRI also showed concerns on the other side, but they were benign. The surgeon did lumpectomy on the right side. I also had a pet scan. Neither the petscan nor the MRI showed any cancer in the lymph nodes. But after the lymph node dissection, 2 of 14 were positive for cancer. I hope they order an MRI for you, unless your biopsies turn out benign. I remember when they first found the calcium deposits they said they were going to biopsy them "to prove they weren't cancer". So there is hope!

      Comment
  • paula gittens Profile

    I have to ask this my oncologist told me yesterday that my first mamogram will be one year after my date of surgery 04/11/13....but im reading that some women are getting mamograms 6 months after 9 months after im confused

    Asked by anonymous

    Survivor since 2013
    over 6 years 11 answers
    • View all 11 answers
    • Thumb avatar default
      anonymous
      Stage 3C Patient

      It's also a function of your insurance coverage. Most plans give you one every year, unless a doc asks for another one. During the BC process we get so many tests like PET, CT, U/S, and are very well checked out and felt up and followed there's not usually a need for one more test involving...

      more

      It's also a function of your insurance coverage. Most plans give you one every year, unless a doc asks for another one. During the BC process we get so many tests like PET, CT, U/S, and are very well checked out and felt up and followed there's not usually a need for one more test involving radiation.
      Anyhow my mammogram 2 years ago mis interpreted my BC that was developing so they aren't the holy grail people often think. Just my own opinion;)

      Comment
    • sharon s Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      Your diagnosis treatment and the aggressiveness of the cancer impact all of those follow up items.

      The body can have too many X-rays too.

      Comment

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