Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Diagnostic mammograms are x-ray pictures of the breast. They take clearer, more detailed images of areas that look abnormal on a screening mammogram. Doctors use them to learn more about unusual breast changes, such as a lump, pain, thickening, nipple discharge, or changes in breast size or shape.
These tests help in making a breast cancer diagnosis by focusing on a specific area of the breast. They may involve special techniques and more views than screening mammograms in order to help confirm the presence of disease.
An ultrasound device sends out sound waves that people cannot hear, which then bounce off tissues. A computer uses the echoes produced to create a picture. Your doctor can view these pictures on a monitor. The pictures may show whether a lump is solid or filled with fluid (a cyst).
Cysts are not cancer, but a solid mass may be cancer. After the test, your doctor can store the pictures on video or print them out. This exam may be used along with a mammogram to help confirm a diagnosis of breast cancer.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a powerful magnet linked to a computer. MRI makes detailed pictures of breast tissue. Your doctor can then view these pictures on a monitor or print them on film. These tests may be used along with a mammogram to help make a breast cancer diagnosis.
Your doctor may refer you to a surgeon or breast disease specialist for a biopsy. Fluid or tissue is removed from your breast to help find out if there is cancer.
Some suspicious areas can be seen on a mammogram but cannot be felt during a clinical breast
exam. Doctors can use imaging procedures to help see the area and remove tissue. Such procedures include ultrasound-guided, needle-localized, or stereotactic biopsy.
Doctors can remove tissue from the breast in different ways:
- Core biopsy: Your doctor uses a thick needle to remove breast tissue. A pathologist (someone who studies diseases) checks for cancer cells. This procedure is also called a needle biopsy.
- Surgical biopsy: Your surgeon removes a sample of tissue. A pathologist checks the tissue for cancer cells.
- Incisional biopsy: Your surgeon takes a sample of a lump or abnormal area. A pathologist checks the tissue for cancer cells.
- Excisional biopsy: Your surgeon takes the entire lump or area. A pathologist checks it for cancer cells.
If cancer cells are found, the pathologist can tell what kind of cancer it is. The most common type of breast cancer is ductal carcinoma. In this type of cancer, abnormal cells are found in the lining of the ducts. Lobular carcinoma is another type of breast cancer in which abnormal cells are found in the lobules.