loading... close

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

    After an abnormal mammogram, in which the doctor wants a biopsy, what is an expected time frame for a consultation? They can't get in me for a consult for 1 week.

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    almost 8 years 1 answer
    • Blanca Polo Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      Go whenever they can see you. If there is something really wrong they will speed up the process. Good luck!

      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
    over 7 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
  • Hailey Wilson Profile

    I'm in the 7th grade one of my breasts hurts, off and on. Occasionaly, here's daily clear or greenish discharge. I went to the doctor and got an ultra sound. They told my mom the results but she won't tell me. What's wrong...could this be breast cancer?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    almost 8 years 2 answers
    • Nancy L Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      Hailey,
      It's common to have breast pain with your period, when your breasts swell each month. Think about the timing of your pain. Usually breast cancer does not hurt.
      If your mom can't or won't talk to you about this, I suggest calling your doctor's office and speaking to the nurse. Another...

      more

      Hailey,
      It's common to have breast pain with your period, when your breasts swell each month. Think about the timing of your pain. Usually breast cancer does not hurt.
      If your mom can't or won't talk to you about this, I suggest calling your doctor's office and speaking to the nurse. Another idea: ask your school nurse.
      Take care.

      Comment
    • Jessica Fisher Profile
      anonymous
      Stage 3A Patient

      Your very young and it's very rare at your age but possible, I was diagnosed at 29 and my chances of getting breast cancer was .04%. I'm sure if it were cancer your mom would not keep that from you also an ultrasound will not tell you it's cancer a biopsy is required to make that diagnosis! Talk...

      more

      Your very young and it's very rare at your age but possible, I was diagnosed at 29 and my chances of getting breast cancer was .04%. I'm sure if it were cancer your mom would not keep that from you also an ultrasound will not tell you it's cancer a biopsy is required to make that diagnosis! Talk to your mom it's your body and you have every right to know what's going on with it, or try calling your DR yourself:)

      1 comment
  • Nicole Adams Profile

    Does a mammogram hurt?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 8 years 8 answers
    • View all 8 answers
    • Thumb avatar default
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      I am always concerned when a question is asked about pain levels associated with ANY procedure related to breast cancer and the responses are uniformally rosy or at least, minimal when it comes to reporting pain.
      The real answer is - the pain levels depend on a host of factors and it can vary...

      more

      I am always concerned when a question is asked about pain levels associated with ANY procedure related to breast cancer and the responses are uniformally rosy or at least, minimal when it comes to reporting pain.
      The real answer is - the pain levels depend on a host of factors and it can vary enormously from one women to another. For example, if you have dense breasts and a history of breast pain and sensitivity to having your breasts touched heavily or manipulated, as well as strong hormone related breast pain, then it is feasible that you will find mammograms painful. Further, scientists have recently found that sensitivity to pain is genetically based, so if you are part of the population who have the pain sensitivity genetic make up [you will know who you are as you will have a history of people assuring you X or Y does not hurt much but when you have it, the roof of yor head blasts off with pain - thats when they start calling you a wimp or pathetic or whatever] then your experience more pain than those without the gene.

      I am so sick of the ability to withstand pain being portrayed as a moral virtue when in fact a lot of it is the luck of the draw with genetics.

      I also regularly run into women who actively avoid much needed mammograms because of the pain. I then see scientific studies where resources are poured into answering the question "wh do women avoid having mammograms even when they are free?" One reason they regulary fail to cite is the pain. Yes, pain NOT discomfort.

      I am writing this because I am a breast cancer survivor who not only finds mammograms very painful, I am also one of the 40% of women who developed breast seroma following surgery. A seroma is a fluid filled sac in the breast which in my case although smallish, is also very painful. I have to hold what remains of my right breast if the car goes over a speed hump as breast jiggling is painful.

      I am supposed to have my first post surgery annual mammogram in about 8 weeks.The idea of my scarred breast with a seroma, which already experienced bad pain on mammograms without these features scares the dickens out of me. I had an MRI [which I paid for myself] late last year - zero radiation, zero pain and a far more sensitive test for invasive ie., the most dangerous kind of breast cancer. In my case, due to dense breasts, mammograms are also only around 60% accurate albeit better at detecting non-invasive forms of breast cancer.
      I have now decided I am not going to put up with the pain from mammograms any more. I have therefore written to the centre that will be conducting my annual mammograms for the rest of my life and said I do not consent to having any mammograms done in future without adequate pain relief. I know from experience a local anesthetic injection - which I tolerate well - completely ends all pain. I am also willing to consider trialling a numbing agent like EMLA cream applied an ahour or two before the mammogram and wrapped in saran and/or breathing through one of those pain relief tubes ambulances and paramedics carry with them.
      If anyone reading this has any concerns about the pain involved in having your breasts - with or without surgeyr scars and seromas - squeeed and flattened to one inch thick - then I urge you to contact the mammogaphic service ahead of your appiontment and put it in writing that your consent to the procedure in contingent on being provided with a decent choice of pain relief.
      Do not be held to the standard of the most stoic or tough patient and refuse to be emotionally blackmailed into shutting up and suffering needlessly. The pain relief options I have llisted are cheap, simple and used every minute of every day in all sorts of medical settings, so the side effects are minimal.
      Don't let them get away with hurting you if avoiding being subject to pain is a priority to you. By all means if avoiding or embracing physical pain is acceptable to you - then go ahead without pain relief.

      Comment
    • Thumb avatar default
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      I find them very painful. I had one years ago because a lump was found. I'm small and the area is dense, so all I kept hearing was how little fat I had from the technician to the specialist. I then had to go for an ultrasound anyway because they couldn't really see because of the density. I...

      more

      I find them very painful. I had one years ago because a lump was found. I'm small and the area is dense, so all I kept hearing was how little fat I had from the technician to the specialist. I then had to go for an ultrasound anyway because they couldn't really see because of the density. I ended up with scrapes above and below my breasts and pain for quite a while after.
      I haven't gone again because of the pain, but know that I'm supposed to. If the same thing happens, what's the point? Still the doctor insists on the mammogram. This is not how they would look for testicular cancer and some of us find our breasts just as bad for pain. I think it is barbaric how they have not made this test less painful

      Comment

Educational Video

Personal Story

Related Topics

Looking for another topic?
Use the search box in the top right.

Footer 3

Breast cancer affects one out of every eight women in their lifetime.

spread the word