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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

    Concern about skin between breasts that has filled with clear fluid. I could pop the skin and release the fluid. I've never had this issue before.

    Asked by anonymous

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

      I have never heard of that before. Any time you have a concern, check in with your doctor. Have you been treated for breast cancer? It almost sounds like some kind of blistering but I would be getting myself to the doctor asap.

      Comment
  • Norma  Cook Profile

    Is there a particular age where mammograms are no longer recommended?

    Asked by anonymous

    Survivor since 2014
    almost 3 years 4 answers
    • View all 4 answers
    • Betti A Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2013

      I used to do mammograms and I found it to be what the doctor felt was an appropriate age to stop. I had one that ordered yearly mammograms on his patients no matter what their age and did one lady into her 90s.

      Comment
    • Thumb avatar default
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      I would not recommend stopping. I am 77 and had mammograms every year for the last 35 years, always painful and always negative.

      My doctor told me in 2015 that I did not need it anymore because of the new recommendations regarding age and low risk. I was in great health and had very low risk...

      more

      I would not recommend stopping. I am 77 and had mammograms every year for the last 35 years, always painful and always negative.

      My doctor told me in 2015 that I did not need it anymore because of the new recommendations regarding age and low risk. I was in great health and had very low risk factors other than age, so I stopped.

      However, I discovered a lump in my breast in Jan 2017 and it turned out to be cancer that had already spread into my axillary nodes, so I am now stage IIb.

      Had I had a mammogram in 2015 or 2016 I could have caught it when it was small and not spread. When it was stage I had a much better chance of survival with less therapy, no radical surgery, and probably fewer serious side effects. I could have just a lumpectomy instead of the mastectomy and node dissection I now need.

      Whatever the pain and cost of the mammogram, it would have been worth it for me.

      2 comments
  • saline  jackson Profile

    Where can I get a free breast MRI or one at a low cost?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 7 years 2 answers
    • Catherine Nodurft Profile
      anonymous
      Family Member or Loved One

      Saline, the National Breast Cancer Foundation provides free mammograms for women who cannot afford them through our partner facilities. You can find a facility near you at http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/About-NBCF/Programs.aspx. If there is not a facility in your area, call your local...

      more

      Saline, the National Breast Cancer Foundation provides free mammograms for women who cannot afford them through our partner facilities. You can find a facility near you at http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/About-NBCF/Programs.aspx. If there is not a facility in your area, call your local hospital and see if they have a program to provide mammograms for women who cannot afford them.

      Comment
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      Start calling around to every place that does MRI's and ask how much it costs for an MRI without insurance. The larger cities will have more places available and costs will be lower. Are you on any kind of public assistance or medicaid? If so, you need to talk to your caseworker about places. ...

      more

      Start calling around to every place that does MRI's and ask how much it costs for an MRI without insurance. The larger cities will have more places available and costs will be lower. Are you on any kind of public assistance or medicaid? If so, you need to talk to your caseworker about places. If you are not on SSI, or public assistance, call the local American Cancer Society, and Susan G. Komen. You will have to do some searching but you can find a place where the cost is relatively lower and they will let you pay off the bill in monthly installments. That is what I have to do, yearly. Good luck, Sharon

      Comment
  • Eileen  Cluesman Profile

    What does a normal mammogram look like?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 8 years Answer

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