Early detection of breast cancer is critical because breast cancers found during screenings are more likely to be smaller in size and still confined to the breast making them much more treatable.
- In order to determine appropriate screening it is important to discuss your family history of breast cancer as well as all other types of cancers with your provider to determine your personal risk of breast cancer and appropriate screening recommendations. Your provider can discuss if a referral to a genetics counselor would be appropriate.
For early detection of breast cancer we recommend:
- Screening mammography for all women. The frequency of screening varies according to national guidelines and your risk. Ask your provider what is appropriate for you.
- Self-breast exams are advised for all women over 20
- Yearly clinical breast exam for all women over 20
- Women at increased risk of breast cancer may benefit from additional screening strategies. Your provider can help you decide what those strategies are.
Tests and procedures used to diagnose breast cancer
- Breast exam. Your provider will check both of your breasts and lymph nodes in your armpit, feeling for any lumps or other abnormalities.
- A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. Mammograms are commonly used to screen for breast cancer. If an abnormality is detected on a screening mammogram, your provider may recommend a diagnostic mammogram for further evaluation.
- Breast ultrasound. Ultrasound uses sound waves to produce images of structures within the body. Ultrasound may be used to determine whether a new breast lump is a solid mass or a fluid-filled cyst.
- A biopsy is a procedure that removes tissue from the breast for testing. This is the only definitive way to make a diagnosis of breast cancer. During a biopsy, your doctor will use a specialized needle device guided by ultrasound, X-ray or another imaging test to remove a piece of tissue from the suspicious area found on imaging. Biopsy samples are sent to a laboratory for analysis where pathologists determine whether the cells are cancerous.
- Breast MRI. An MRI machine uses a magnet and radio waves to create pictures of the inside of your breast. Before a breast MRI, you receive an injection of contrast dye.
- Molecular Breast Imaging. MBI is a test that uses a special gamma camera to detect breast cancer. The test is done by injecting a small amount of radioactive tracer into a vein. The pattern of the tracer uptake in breast cells is then detected on the gamma detector. MBI is one option for improving cancer detection in women who have dense breast tissue.
Other tests and procedures may be used depending on your situation.