If you have suspected breast cancer, either because of your symptoms or because your mammogram has shown an abnormality, you'll be referred to a specialist breast cancer clinic for further tests.
If you have symptoms and have been referred to a specialist breast unitby your GP, you'll probably be invited to have a mammogram, which is anX-ray of your breasts. You may also need an Ultrasound scan .
If your cancer was detected through the NHS Breast Screening Programme, you may need another mammogram or ultrasound scan.
Your doctor may suggest that you only have a breast ultrasound scan if you're under the age of 35. This is because younger women have denser breasts, which means a mammogram isn't as effective as ultrasound indetecting cancer.
Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce an image of the inside of your breasts, showing any lumps or abnormalities.
Your breast specialist may also suggest a breast ultrasound if they need to know whether a lump in your breast is solid or contains liquid.
You may also need a scan and a needle test on lymph nodes in your armpit (axilla) to see whether these are also affected.
Biopsies can be taken in different ways, and the type you have will depend on what your doctor knows about your condition.
Different methods of carrying out a biopsy are discussed below.
Needle aspiration may be used to test a sample of your breast cells for cancer or drain a small fluid-filled lump (benign cyst).
Your doctor will use a small needle to extract a sample of cells, without removing any tissue.
Needle biopsy is the most common type of biopsy. A sample of tissue is taken from a lump in your breast using a large needle.
You'll have a local anaesthetic , which means you'll be awake during the procedure, but your breast will be numb.
Your doctor may suggest that you have a guided needle biopsy, usually guided by ultrasound or X-ray, but sometimes MRI, to obtain a more precise and reliable diagnosis of cancer.
This also candistinguish it from any non-invasive change, particularly ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).
Vacuum-assisted biopsy, also known as mammotome biopsy, is another type of biopsy.
During the procedure, a needleis attached to a gentle suction tube, which helps toobtain the sample and clear any bleeding from the area.
If a diagnosis of breast cancer is confirmed, more tests will be needed to determine the stage and grade of the cancer, and work out the best method of treatment.
Computerised tomography (CT) scans or chest X-ray and liver ultrasound scans may be needed to check whether the cancer has spread.
An MRI scan of the breast may be needed to clarify the resultsor assess the extent of the condition within the breast.
If your doctor thinks the cancer could have spread to your bones, you may need a bone scan.
Before having a bone scan, a substance containing a small amount of radiation known as an isotope will be injected into a vein in your arm.
This will be absorbed into your bone if it's been affected by cancer. The affected areas of bone will show up as highlighted areas on the bone scan, which is carried out using a special camera.
You'll also need tests that show whether the cancer will respond to specific types of treatment.
The results of these tests can give your doctors a more complete picture of the type of cancer you have and how best to treat it.
The types of test you could be offered are discussed below.
In some cases, breast cancer cells can be stimulated to grow by hormones that occur naturally in your body, such as oestrogen and progesterone.
If this is the case, the cancer may be treated by stopping the effects of the hormones or by lowering the level of these hormones in your body. This is known as hormone therapy.
Duringa hormone receptor test, a sample of cancer cells will be taken from your breast and tested to see if they respond to either oestrogen or progesterone.
If the hormone is able to attach to the cancer cells using a hormone receptor, they're known as hormone receptor positive.
While hormones can encourage the growth of some types of breast cancer, other types are stimulated by a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2).
These types of cancer can be diagnosed using a HER2 test, and are treated with medication to block the effects of HER2. This is known as biological or targeted therapy.
When your breast cancer is diagnosed, the doctors will give it a stage. The stage describes the size of the cancer and how far it has spread, and helps to predict the outlook.
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is sometimes described as stage 0. Other stages of breast cancer describe invasive breast cancer:
This is a simplified guide. Each stage is divided into further categories: A, B and C. If you're not sure what stage you have, ask your doctor.
The TNM staging system may also be used to describe breast cancer, as it can provide accurate information about the diagnosis:
The grade describes the appearance of the cancer cells.
Breast cancer (cancer of the mammary glands) is a condition that has been known since ancient times, and exhibits itself as one of the most prevalent conditions of the modern world. This is one of the most common types of cancer, and is often one of the main causes of death for women worldwide. Cancers of the mammary gland usually affect females, and is 100 times more likely to occur in women rather than men.
The first symptom of breast cancer most women notice is a lump or an area of thickened tissue in their breast. Most Breast lump (90%) aren't cancerous, but it's always best to have them checked by your doctor.
Read about the causes of breast cancer, which aren't fully understood. There are some risk factors that are known to affect your likelihood of developing breast cancer, however.
If you notice a lump in your breast or any change in the appearance, feel or shape of your breasts, see a doctor. If you have suspected breast cancer, either because of your symptoms or because your mammogram has shown an abnormality, you'll be referred to a specialist breast cancer clinic for further tests.
Surgery is usually the first type of treatment for breast cancer. The type of surgery you undergo will depend on the type of breast cancer you have. Surgery is usually followed by chemotherapy or radiotherapy or, in some cases, hormone or biological treatments.
Most women with breast cancer have an operation as part of their treatment. Getting back to normal after surgery can take some time. It's important to take things slowly and give yourself time to recover.
As the causes of breast cancer aren't fully understood, it's not known if it can be prevented altogether. Some treatments are available to reduce the risk in women who have a higher risk of developing the condition than the general population.
This is the story of Emma Duncan who was diagnosed with breast cancer twice in four years, once in each breast. "Now I just want to stay cancer free" she says.
Breast cancer (cancer of the mammary glands) is a condition that has been known since ancient times, and exhibits itself as one of the most prevalent conditions of the modern world.
Any woman should be able to perform regular self-examinations. It is recommended to perform this examination when you are taking a shower, or in front of the mirror, holding both arms above and behind the head in order to examine the shape and size.
In the majority of cases, breast cancer is not accompanied by any sort of pain or obvious symptoms. At times, when touching a small nodule present some pain may be felt, which is why continuous, routine self-examinations are highly recommended, especially for age groups at risk.
In the majority of cases, the disease develops in complete absence of clinical symptoms. Since it is a mostly asymptomatic disease, it is rendered even more dangerous.
During palpation using the fingertips, you may feel a round mass, usually ranging from the size of a hazelnut to the size of a walnut, or even larger. The nodule can be firm or soft, with an uneven surface, separated from the tissue around it, or attached to the tissue around it and mobile.
The most common types of breast cancer include Non-invasive breast cancer and Invasive breast cancer. Less common are Morbus Paget, Erysipelas, and Occult carcinoma of the breast.
The causes of breast cancer remain unknown. Despite this, there are several risk factors that all patients should be aware of such as age, family history, weight, giving birth, breastfeeding, and lifestyle habits.
It is important to conduct a thorough examination of both breasts as well. During the examination of the patient, the scale of the tumor (how far it has already spread, or whether it has spread) is ascertained.
Since the causes of breast cancer are not known, prevention is difficult. Nevertheless, several risk factors (weight, physical activity, less alcohol) are important to note, since they can be controlled and minimized
Treatment of breast cancer is highly complex, and is predominantly dependent on how early the cancer is diagnosed, and at what stage it is detected.