What Are Some Tests that Help Detect Breast Cancer?
After a physical exam, and to make a more informed and accurate diagnosis, your doctor may request you to undergo a few breast cancer screening tests to confirm the condition.
These may include:
This is usually one of the first breast cancer screening tests requested by your physician. The mammogram uses X-rays to capture an image of the breast and identifies any calcification points. Mammograms, when applied to diagnose breast cancer accurately, can help reduce mortality by 30%. Women over 40 years of age are encouraged to undergo a mammogram every 1 to 2 years.
In some cases, women do not experience any symptoms or do not see any physical changes in their breasts, especially in the early stages of breast cancer. Thus, mammograms can help detect even the smallest of changes in the breast tissue.
Unlike mammograms that use X-rays, this method uses high-frequency sound waves to capture the image of the breast. When the sound waves pass through or bounce off breast tissue, it creates an image that helps detect any suspicious growths. It can help determine the nature and size of a tumor. This ultrasound method is one of the most preferred breast cancer screening tests used by doctors and patients, because it is non-intrusive, painless, inexpensive, and is safe for all ages. It is safe, even for pregnant women. It also produces results faster.
Breast magnetic resonance imaging, also known as breast MRIs, uses more sophisticated technology and provides more detailed information about the breast tissue, lesions, and tumors. Its sensitivity is higher than M-rays, making it one of the effective breast cancer screening tests for diagnosis.
Aside from being more expensive than the other exams, breast MRIs are often only recommended when screening women with higher than average risk.
To determine whether a lump is benign or cancerous, the doctor may request a biopsy. The biopsy entails getting a sample of breast tissue that lab technicians will then analyze. A specialized needle will remove core tissue from the suspected area. Usually, a breast biopsy is an outpatient procedure.