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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

  • Jennifer Swallow Profile

    My doctor said that my mammogram and ultrasound show nothing, but the lumps are still there and sore. What should I do? I know an MRI would be good, but what if my doctor refuses to order one?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    almost 8 years 5 answers
    • View all 5 answers
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      This is your body.... the doctor can't refuse to order a test for you. I had a bit of an argument with my doctor about an MRI but he quickly relented and ordered it for me. An MRI will show what a mammogram and an ultrasound can't. In my case, it would have found my breast cancer much earlier....

      more

      This is your body.... the doctor can't refuse to order a test for you. I had a bit of an argument with my doctor about an MRI but he quickly relented and ordered it for me. An MRI will show what a mammogram and an ultrasound can't. In my case, it would have found my breast cancer much earlier. Be polite, be nice, but be persistant, and win this one as if your life depended on it. I hope Diana reads this as she will also support you in getting an MRI. You GO GIRL!

      2 comments
    • Diana Foster Payne Profile
      anonymous
      Stage 4 Patient

      Hi Jennifer. I totally agree with Sharon. You have lumps that a mammogram & ultrasound aren't picking up. Hopefully they are benign....but you don't know. It's crucial that you have an MRI preformed. I wished my doctors would have done one for me. Thus my cancer was found much too late. It is...

      more

      Hi Jennifer. I totally agree with Sharon. You have lumps that a mammogram & ultrasound aren't picking up. Hopefully they are benign....but you don't know. It's crucial that you have an MRI preformed. I wished my doctors would have done one for me. Thus my cancer was found much too late. It is your body and you need to demand more testing. If your doctor refuses then it might be time to find another doctor. Take care Jennifer & keep us posted

      Comment
  • Thumb avatar default

    I just had an abnormal mammogram but I dont need to be tested for 6 months,is this common?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    almost 8 years 5 answers
    • View all 5 answers
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      This is a very common practice and most times there is nothing wrong.... it turns out to be benign. If you are worried about this ask to have an ultrasound. If that looks suspicious, INSIST on an MRI. There are a few of us out here who ended up with a diagnosis of breast cancer that was more...

      more

      This is a very common practice and most times there is nothing wrong.... it turns out to be benign. If you are worried about this ask to have an ultrasound. If that looks suspicious, INSIST on an MRI. There are a few of us out here who ended up with a diagnosis of breast cancer that was more advanced than we would have wanted. Be your own best advocate. Please keep us posted!

      1 comment
    • Diana Foster Payne Profile
      anonymous
      Stage 4 Patient

      Yes, as Sharon said this is common practice. Most of the time everything is ok. Just make sure you are comfortable with their answers. I was going every six months so they could "monitor" calcifications that were found for any changes. I found my lump 5 months after a clean mammogram. I ended up...

      more

      Yes, as Sharon said this is common practice. Most of the time everything is ok. Just make sure you are comfortable with their answers. I was going every six months so they could "monitor" calcifications that were found for any changes. I found my lump 5 months after a clean mammogram. I ended up having stage 3C breast cancer. And as Sharon can testify this happens more than we'd like to think. So...as you can imagine I was very angry & felt let down by my doctors who were supposed to be monitoring me. I'm not telling you this to scare you. I just want you to be aware of your body and if you're not comfortable with what's going on...ask for more tests or get a second opinion. You truly must be your own advocate!!!

      Comment
  • Thumb avatar default

    What does a development of an elongated nodule in the inferior and lateral aspect of the right breast mean? Is this a sign of breast cancer?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    almost 8 years 1 answer
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      It is a description of the lump "elongated nodule." "Inferior and lateral aspect" is just describing the location in the right breast of the lump. Unless they do a biopsy and say it is cancer the description and location is just that.... the lump is elongated meaning... "long" and where it...

      more

      It is a description of the lump "elongated nodule." "Inferior and lateral aspect" is just describing the location in the right breast of the lump. Unless they do a biopsy and say it is cancer the description and location is just that.... the lump is elongated meaning... "long" and where it is located. Take care, Sharon

      4 comments
  • Thumb avatar default

    Should a focal asymmetry always require an ultrasound? What is the risk percentage of it turning into cancer?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 7 years 1 answer
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      Who knows what clicks cells over from being normal to abnormal? When in doubt, I would fall on to the side of having an extra test to MAKE SURE, those cells haven't gone to "The Dark Side." I was misdiagnosed for 7 months because a doctor said I didn't meet the criteria for the extra testing. ...

      more

      Who knows what clicks cells over from being normal to abnormal? When in doubt, I would fall on to the side of having an extra test to MAKE SURE, those cells haven't gone to "The Dark Side." I was misdiagnosed for 7 months because a doctor said I didn't meet the criteria for the extra testing. If you do end up with breast cancer, you want to catch it as soon as possible. Take care, Sharon

      1 comment

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