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Breast cancer detection methods

How to detect breast cancer?

If you notice any lump formation, change in nipples, texture, size and skin of breasts, lymph nodes in the armpit, then you might be having breast cancer. It is best to get a physical examination. If the results are positive, then more tests will be done to confirm.

IMAGING TESTS – X-rays, magnetic fields, or radioactive substances are used to get the picture of the inside of our body. This also helps to identify the spread of cancer in a particular part of the body.

Diagnostic Mammogram – Getting an X-ray of the breast is called mammogram. Diagnostic mammogram is used to diagnose breast disease which could be lump formation, nipple discharge, abnormal results on the screening mammogram. More images of the suspicious area will be taken. In certain cases, images known as cone/ spot views with magnification are also used. A diagnostic mammogram can reveal an abnormality, growth of a tissue or a lesion. If the mammogram does not show any tumor and the doctor can feel the lump, then a biopsy is recommended.

MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) – It can be used to find out the actual size of cancer and to spot for any cancer areas in the breast.

Ductogram – Also called as galactogram, this test finds out the cause of nipple discharge. A thin plastic tube is placed on the discharge area and a contrast medium is injected which will outline the shape of the duct on the X-ray to show if there is any mass inside the duct.

BIOPSY – This is the best method to know if you have cancer. A sample from the breast is removed by a pathologist who views it under a microscope. There are different types of biopsies like Fine Needle Biopsy, Large Needle Biopsy and Surgical Biopsy. Each biopsy has positive and negative sides to it. It is better to consult your doctor before undergoing a biopsy. The doctor will consider factors like, how many lesions are there in breast, is it large, where is it located in the breast, other medical problems, etc. Once the sample is extracted, the doctor will place a small metal clip from where the sample has been removed. This will not cause any pain and neither can you feel it. This will be helpful for future mammograms or surgery. Some patients might have to undergo chemotherapy to shrink the tumor so that it is visible on mammogram.

There are many other detection methods like PET scan, Breast Ultrasound, etc. but doctors have not been able to establish their success rate in detecting breast cancer. It is best to get a yearly physical examination done in order to detect breast cancer in its earlier stages.

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