The first sign of breast cancer often is a breast lump or an abnormal mammogram. Breast cancer stages range from early, curable breast cancer to metastatic breast cancer, with a variety of breast cancer treatments.
Whether you’ve never had breast cancer and want to increase your odds of early detection, you’ve recently been diagnosed, or you are in the midst of treatment and follow-up, you know that breast cancer and medical tests go hand in hand.
Most breast cancer-related tests fall into following categories:
Mammogram: Mammograms are usually recommended for 45 years and older women, but women should start screening at the age of 40 years. A mammogram is an X-ray which only takes pictures of breasts. Doctors can identify abnormalities in the breast with these images such as masses which can be an indicator of cancer.
Keep in mind that an abnormality on your mammogram doesn’t necessarily mean you have breast cancer, but you may need further testing.
Breast ultrasound: Breast ultrasound is a test which utilizes sound waves to make a picture of the inside of the body. If your mammogram detects any mass, the doctor may recommend you to do an ultrasound to identify the mass. With the help of this ultrasound, doctors determine whether a mass or lump is solid or fluid. Cysts which contain fluid mass are usually noncancerous. For performing breast ultrasound doctor will place gel on your breast and use a special instrument to create an image of breast tissue.
Breast biopsy: Biopsy removes a sample of tissue from lump or mass to determine whether it is benign or cancerous. A breast biopsy is an outpatient surgical procedure. Several different ways are present to perform a breast biopsy, also depends on the size of the tumor. Depending upon the size of the tumor, a surgeon may conduct the type of biopsy.
There are different biopsies available for tissue evaluation – Fine needle aspiration biopsy, core needle biopsy, surgical or open biopsy, sentinel node biopsy and image-guided biopsy.
Breast MRI scan: A breast MRI scan is not a typical screening tool for breast cancer because of its higher risk for false positives. But if you have risk factors for breast cancer, as a precaution your doctor may recommend MRI screenings with your annual mammograms. MRI scan requires the use of a magnet and radio waves to produce a picture of the breasts inside.