Diagnosis

Breast cancers are diagnosed using a variety of methods. Each method differs in the certainty of diagnosis. We are listing some of the most frequently used methods:

  1. Mammogram: a mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. Screening mammograms are done for the purpose of routine check-ups to detect breast cancer in women who have no apparent symptoms. Diagnostic mammograms are administered when the screening mammograms reveal suspicions tissues that need further investigation or when signs of breast cancer are already present in the woman. Diagnostic mammograms provide a detailed image of the breast tissue and are more helpful in determining the existence of cancer. This method is a fairly reliable technique to detect cancers of the breast as it involves imaging of the breast tissues from multiple vantage points.
  2. Ultrasound: When a screening mammogram has been found to indicate the possibility of a breast cancer, there is the next step in diagnosis called an ultrasound. An ultrasound is an imaging technique that utilizes penetrating sound waves that reflect off the tissue as an echo and generate a live detailed image that is called a breast sonogram.
  3. MRI: Diagnostic imaging can sometimes prove to be inconclusive and so when this is the case, the doctor can recommend an MRI to ascertain the progress of the disease. During an MRI scan, magnetic and radio energy (not radiation) are transmitted through the breast tissue creating a detailed pictures of areas within the breast. These images help doctors to differentiate between healthy and diseased tissue.
  4. Biopsy: A breast biopsy involves extraction of tissue or fluids from the suspicious area of the breast. This is the only method that can most conclusively determine whether the abnormal tissue is cancerous or not. There are 3 types of biopsies. We are listing them below
  5. Fine needle aspiration: this form of biopsy is recommended when the doctor suspects that there is a fluid filled cystic lump. During this procedure, the lump should collapse as the fluid is sucked out via a needle. The needle is sometimes guided using ultrasound.
  6. Core-Needle biopsy: In this procedure a small amount of suspicious breast tissue is extracted using a hollow needle. The patient is administered local anaesthesia. Sometimes the radiologist/doctor installs a small amount of marker that helps identify the abnormal tissue. This may also involve the use of ultrasound for guiding the needle.