Diagnosing Breast Cancer

If you notice any bumps, lumps or changes in your breast, see a medical professional to get screened for breast cancer. Most often, breast abnormalities aren’t cancerous but minor problems. Breast cancer can be cured if detected early.

For more information on breast health services or to schedule an appointment, call our Christian Hospital referral line at 877.747.9355 or email us.

In addition to a physical examination by your doctor, imaging tests will be performed. Imaging tests may include some of the following:

Breast Exam: Your doctor will perform a physical examination of your breasts to check for any lumps or abnormalities.

Mammogram: An x-ray of the breast. Screening mammograms are used to look for breast disease in women with no visible symptoms or breast problems.

Diagnostic mammography: An x-ray of the breast used to diagnose unusual breast changes, such as lump, pain, discharge or a change in breast size or shape. These tests are used for women who have symptoms of breast disease. This test provides a better look at changes detected from a screening mammogram.

Digital mammogram: Images are electronically captured and viewed on a computer rather than x-ray film. These images are clearer and that provides a better diagnosis for questionable spots.

Ultrasound or sonography: Uses high-frequency sound waves to get images of body tissues. An ultrasound helps distinguish between cysts and solid masses. The sound waves enter the breast and bounce back. The pattern of their echoes produce a picture called a sonogram, which is displayed on a screen. This exam is often used along with mammography.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A diagnostic procedure that uses strong magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

It is recommended that high-risk women begin mammography and MRI screenings at the age of 30, unless they and their doctor agree that a different age is more appropriate.

Based on these exams, your doctor may decide that no further tests are needed and no treatment is necessary. In such cases, your doctor may want to check you regularly to watch for any changes.

Often, however, the doctor may need to do a biopsy to remove fluid or tissue from the breast to be sent to the lab to look for cancer cells. It can be done using a needle to get a piece of the suspicious mass or it can be done with surgery. It is the only way to know for sure if cancer or abnormal cells are present.

There are several types of breast biopsy procedures. The type of biopsy performed will depend on the location and size of the breast mass.

Types of breast biopsies:

Fine needle aspiration biopsy: A thin needle is inserted into the mass or suspicious area to remove a small sample of fluid or tissue. No incision is necessary. This procedure helps determine whether breast change is benign or cancer.

Core needle biopsy: A large needle is guided into the lump or suspicious area to remove a small cylinder of tissue. No incision is necessary.

Surgical biopsy: A surgeon removes part or entire mass through an incision into the breast.

There are several instruments and techniques that may be used to guide the needles and assist with biopsy procedures. These include, but are not limited to the following:

Stereotactic biopsy: Finds the precise location of the breast lump by using a computer and mammogram results to create a three-dimensional (3d) picture of the breast. A sample of the tissue is removed with a needle for further testing.

Mammotome breast biopsy system or ATEC (automated tissue excision and collection): A type of hollow tube is inserted into the breast mass. The breast tissue is gently suctioned into the tube, and a rotating knife inside the tube removes the tissue.

Ultrasound-guided biopsy: A technique that uses a computer and a transducer that sends out ultrasonic sounds waves to create images of the breast lump or mass. This technique helps to guide the needle biopsy.

For more information on breast health services or to schedule an appointment, call our Christian Hospital referral line at 877.747.9355 or email us.