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

  • anonymous Profile

    Just had my final chemo. (Yay!) My Onc says that I won't get regular scans. He said its not the standard of care and hasn't been shown to make much difference, other than stressing out the patient. Anyone else heard of this?

    Asked by anonymous

    Stage 1 Patient
    almost 7 years 12 answers
    • View all 12 answers
    • Erin Timlin Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2011

      I have never had any scans and my oncologist has told me there is no evidence that the cancer is anywhere else in my body. I have no pain anywhere, no shortness of breath, my bodily functions are normal and my blood work has always been stellar. So I agree that until you have a reason to...

      more

      I have never had any scans and my oncologist has told me there is no evidence that the cancer is anywhere else in my body. I have no pain anywhere, no shortness of breath, my bodily functions are normal and my blood work has always been stellar. So I agree that until you have a reason to suspect something, then no reason to stress yourself out. AS Sharon said, lean on your doctors. If you trust them, then believe their opinions.

      Comment
    • Life is Good! Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2003

      Same with me... But, you know your body so communicate any changes and unusual pain you have. My oncologist ordered tests as needed for symptoms and relieved my concerns. Congrats on completing chemo! You endured a lot! Go live life to the fullest! God bless you!

      Comment
  • aimee debord Profile

    I recently found two spots on my left breast. I have had mammograms and an ultrasound. My case was reffered to as the breast cent and they want to make more tests. Any ideas what they might be?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 7 years 4 answers
    • View all 4 answers
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      Aimee,
      Don't have a clue but they have to be extremely careful and all the drama puts you through mental -hell! Most of these things even when they ask for biopsy's turn out to be something benign. Keep yourself very busy and try not to go to the dark side in your mind. You have already done...

      more

      Aimee,
      Don't have a clue but they have to be extremely careful and all the drama puts you through mental -hell! Most of these things even when they ask for biopsy's turn out to be something benign. Keep yourself very busy and try not to go to the dark side in your mind. You have already done the best thing you can by getting into see a doctor. They are, in turn, doing the best and referring you to a specialty clinic. It could be something as benign as very dense breast tissue that a mammogram and ultrasound can't get clear shots of. They are probably going to do biopsy's and you will have to go through --wiaitng-hell-- which is just a pain. Hang in there, do not let your imagination run wild. Most of these lumpy things are nothing more than just lumpy things. Take care, Sharon

      Comment
    • Thumb avatar default
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2012

      Hi Aimee, In my case, my surgeon opted for 4 core biopsy samples (he said it was typical to take 3-6). There is also the fine needle which can be inconclusive. I know of women who have had the stereotactic biopsy. There is the incisional and excisional biopsy also. It depends on your particular...

      more

      Hi Aimee, In my case, my surgeon opted for 4 core biopsy samples (he said it was typical to take 3-6). There is also the fine needle which can be inconclusive. I know of women who have had the stereotactic biopsy. There is the incisional and excisional biopsy also. It depends on your particular situation. Some need an MRI. You're in the worst place right now. Try not too see only the bad news that could be. You have a greater chance of it being benign unless your doctor is almost certain it is cancer and alerted you to his concern. In my case, the doctor felt the hard lump and went pale. We both knew before he did the biopsy a few hours later. But whatever the diagnosis, you've made the best decision you could ever make. YOU WENT TO THE DOCTOR !!!! Hang in there and keep us posted. Cyber hugs and praying for peace your way. Jo :-D

      Comment
  • Theresa Hoekstra Profile

    Why are people not talking about Thermology for early detection?

    Asked by anonymous

    Industry Provider
    almost 9 years 2 answers
    • Jody  Feil Profile
      anonymous
      Family Member or Loved One

      I think this is a great question? I don't know much about it. Perhaps you can explain what it is?

      3 comments
    • Thumb avatar default
      anonymous
      Industry Provider

      Thermology is a diagnostic infrared imaging technique for early detection of breast cancer. It doesn't use any form of radiation and there is no compression of the breasts. The National Cancer Institute website lists it as as able to detect breast cancer earlier than any other modality and it...

      more

      Thermology is a diagnostic infrared imaging technique for early detection of breast cancer. It doesn't use any form of radiation and there is no compression of the breasts. The National Cancer Institute website lists it as as able to detect breast cancer earlier than any other modality and it has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for almost thirty years. Thermology is based upon characteristic heat patterns caused by the abnormal blood flow of cancer, similar to MRI. There is a great deal of scientific basis for thermology but there are not pervasive standards of practice that assure quality from every facility so it is important to do some research first. Check out the Wikipedia listing and infraredmedicalsolutions.com for more information.

      Comment
  • Thumb avatar default

    What is the usual stage for invasive poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma? They are also CTing my lungs for nodules in the right lower lung. My breast is hugely swollen, with a completel inverted nipple. Help!

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 7 years 3 answers
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      This is again, another situation where you need a face to face talk asap with your oncologist, or radiologist, etc. (specialist) for a translation. I would be having a lot of questions. You will probably have several more tests before you have the entire picture. Again, I am surprised when the...

      more

      This is again, another situation where you need a face to face talk asap with your oncologist, or radiologist, etc. (specialist) for a translation. I would be having a lot of questions. You will probably have several more tests before you have the entire picture. Again, I am surprised when the patient is given their test results and no sit-down time with a doctor to explain it all. (This is my rant for the medical world.... why do they do that???) The poor patient is left in absolute terror and trying to get some answers via a board. I have total and absolute empathy for this situation. I would be trying to get an appointment asap. I also had an inverted nipple and a diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma. There are plenty of us here to help support you through your treatment. Hang in there, please keep us posted. Positive hugs to you. Take care, Sharon

      1 comment
    • Isabel Souchet Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2010

      I agree Sharon. My oncologist wouldn't even let me read my pathology report without explaining first. Nobody on this board is really qualified, unless a MD, to say what stage a cancer is. Everyone's cancer is different and a bunch of medical terminology looked up on the Internet is terrifying....

      more

      I agree Sharon. My oncologist wouldn't even let me read my pathology report without explaining first. Nobody on this board is really qualified, unless a MD, to say what stage a cancer is. Everyone's cancer is different and a bunch of medical terminology looked up on the Internet is terrifying. My sister in laws report looked scary before her dr explained it to her, she is fine. Lumpectomy n radiation. Mine sounded far worse n ended up being stage 1, very very small tumor. Talk to your oncologist, get second opinions and try not to freak out. I know that is hard, but it won't change what already is. Take care, be strong n these boards are great.

      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