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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

  • Vicky gannon Profile

    Does a lump in my armpit and pain and discharge in my breast mean im at risk even if mammogram found nothing two years ago?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 7 years 3 answers
    • Diana Foster Payne Profile
      anonymous
      Stage 4 Patient

      Hi Vickie, unfortunately all women are at risk no matter how long it's been since their last mammogram or ultrasound. Any changes noticed in your breasts should be checked out ASAP. I had a clean mammogram & ultrasound just 5 months before I found my lump which ended up being stage 3 breast...

      more

      Hi Vickie, unfortunately all women are at risk no matter how long it's been since their last mammogram or ultrasound. Any changes noticed in your breasts should be checked out ASAP. I had a clean mammogram & ultrasound just 5 months before I found my lump which ended up being stage 3 breast cancer. And I wish I could say mine was just an isolated incident, but sadly that's not the case. It could be nothing major, but you never want to take that chance!! Please get checked by a reliable breast clinic ASAP and keep us posted on how you are.

      Comment
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      I absolutely agree with Diana. Get this checked asap. Like Diana, I was given a "clean bill of health" and ended up having breast cancer. If there is any question insist on having an MRI. Let us know how things turn out, we care about each other. Hang in there.

      Comment
  • Michele Saw Profile

    What's it like having an MRI?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 7 years 2 answers
    • Ali S Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2011

      Loud and not the most comfortable, but better than mammogram!! Really not that bad though. Anxiety is worse

      Comment
    • Melissa Meade Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      It isn't as bad as I anticipated. The machine is loud. If you have any anxiety issues, ask your nurse to give you anxiety medicine before the procedure. This will help you relax. I kept my eyes closed during the procedure too. I also listened to music through headphones which helped distract me.

      Comment
  • Catherine Nodurft Profile

    Is it normal for your breasts to be sore after a mammogram?

    Asked by anonymous

    Family Member or Loved One
    over 7 years 5 answers
    • View all 5 answers
    • Anne Marie jacintho Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2003

      Is this your first mammogram? Yes skmeti

      Comment
    • Catherine Nodurft Profile
      anonymous
      Family Member or Loved One

      Thank you, Ann Marie!

      Comment
  • Yvonne Bechtel Profile

    I've been having pain in my left breast and now it has moved into my under arm area as well as into My back My left breast is very sensitive. No insurance any suggestions for where to get help?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    almost 7 years 5 answers
    • View all 5 answers
    • Yvette LeBlanc Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      Yvonne,

      Definitely get that checked out! The National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) provides mammograms to women who cannot afford them. Find a list of our partner facilities on the map here: http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/About-NBCF/Programs.aspx

      If there is not a facility that we...

      more

      Yvonne,

      Definitely get that checked out! The National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) provides mammograms to women who cannot afford them. Find a list of our partner facilities on the map here: http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/About-NBCF/Programs.aspx

      If there is not a facility that we partner with near you, call your local hospital. Most hospitals have programs in place that help women who cannot afford mammograms.

      Kaye, the breastcancersite.com actually helps raise money to fund NBCF mammograms! Great resource.

      Good luck!

      1 comment
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      Yvonne,

      What both Yvette and Kaye have said I second and third! You can also check with Planned Parenthood, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation. I'd also check with the American Cancer Society chapter in your area. Please get some help as soon as you can for, at least, your own peace of mind. ...

      more

      Yvonne,

      What both Yvette and Kaye have said I second and third! You can also check with Planned Parenthood, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation. I'd also check with the American Cancer Society chapter in your area. Please get some help as soon as you can for, at least, your own peace of mind. This is a terrible weight of worry to be carrying around. You will be happy to know so many of these things turn out to be NOT breast cancer! Please keep in contact with us.... we are here to support any woman if you need us. Hang in there and thankfully, there is help out there for you. Big hugs, Sharon

      Comment

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