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Breast cancer tests

Early breast cancer diagnosis can save lives and insure effective treatment and high survival rates. This why, it is very important to know all possible breast cancer tests.

Breast cancer screening tests are used to find breast cancer before it trigger obvious symptoms and causes severe problems. Modern breast cancer tests can find cancerous transformations very early, when the chances of survival are highest.

Breast cancer tests include breast exam, mammography, ultrasound, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and biopsy.

Breast manual exam

Breast exam can be done by woman or by doctor. Breast self-exam should be done regularly – once per month. During breast self-exam both breasts and lymph nodes in the armpit should be examined – you should look at any changes, including lumps appearance, skin changes and nipples peculiarities.

Besides lumps or swelling, doctors pay a special attention skin irritation and/or skin dimpling, nipple pain and/or retraction (turning inward), redness and/or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin, unusual discharge from breasts (other than breast milk). Medical experts recommend professional clinical breast-exam for women aged 29–39 every one-three years. For older women annual breast tests are needed.


Mammography is an X-ray of breasts – it is most popular breast cancer screening test. Mammogram can detect most morphological abnormalities including breast lumps and breast cysts. Mammography is usually done for 2 reasons – 1). as a screening test for breast cancer in women without any warning signs and breast cancer symptoms; 2). as a diagnostic test for lump’s follow up and check-up of other breast abnormalities.

Mammography can identify even cancer in-situ (very early stages of breast cancer development) which can insure effective treatment and 100% survival rate. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the greater the chance of survival.

Annual screening mammography is recommended to all women after 40.

According to medical statistics, screening mammography breast cancer detection rate is about 80-85% but nowadays advancing technologies raise the detection rates. Newly introduced 3-D (three-dimensional) mammography can identify cancerous transformations more clearly.

Breast cancer tests

Digital mammography

Digital mammography differs from standard mammography only in the way the image is stored – instead of using film, the image in digital mammography is stored as a digital file on a computer. Thanks to computer programs the breast image can be enlarged or enhanced and suspicious specific areas can be magnified.

Tomosynthesis (so called “Digital Tomosynthesis” or “Digital Breast Tomosynthesis” or “DBT”) is a newly developed improved type of mammography (3-D) – the method for performing high-resolution limited-angle tomography at mammographic dose levels. It is a new dimension in breast cancer detection. Tomosynthesis can provide a higher diagnostic accuracy compared to conventional mammography which is highly appreciated by experts.

Most important benefits of tomosynthesis include very early breast cancer detection, greater accuracy, precise diagnosis, increased possibility to detect multiple breast tumors and clear imaging in cases of dense breast tissue.

Breast ultrasound

Ultrasound uses sound waves to produce images of structures deep within the breast – it could distinguish between a solid mass and a fluid-filled cyst. Breast ultrasound is painless and very fast (just few minutes). This test is recommended to all women with breast abnormalities including breast lumps, breast cysts, breast fibroadenoma, fibrocystic breasts and mastitis.

Breast biopsy

Breast biopsy is usually recommended in ceases of suspicious tumors in the breast. Biopsy samples are sent to special laboratory which can identify cancerous cells, type of cells, aggressiveness as well as hormone receptors or other receptors that could have the influence at treatment options.

Qualified clinics have different methodologies for taking breast biopsy – needle aspiration, needle biopsy, vacuum biopsy, punch biopsy, excision biopsy (surgical) and wire guided biopsy.

Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is noninvasive diagnostic test – it uses a magnet and radio waves to create pictures of the interior of the breast. Before making pictures women usually receive an injection of dye.

Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used in addition to mammography to detect breast cancer in its earliest stage for some women who are at high risk for developing the disease. Breast MRI is not a replacement for mammography for high risk women – it should be used as a complementary screening tool. Although breast MRI may be more likely to find cancerous tumors than mammography but, at the same, breast MRI often misses some cancers that mammography easily detects.

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