What are the tests used to diagnose breast cancer?

Early diagnosis of possible breast cancer is your best weapon of defense.

Breast cancer is one of the top female health concerns. Most women are familiar with many breast cancer signs and symptoms, but when you are told you need additional testing, it can be scary. Always do additional testing as needed to assure yourself that you do have this problem; if you do, rely upon your personal physician for advice about what to do next.

Remember, early diagnosis of possible breast cancer is your best weapon of defense. Most women know about breast self-examination and mammograms. What other tests are used to diagnose breast cancer? Here are some of the tests you may be asked to take if breast cancer is a possibility. You may be asked to submit to one or more of these procedures if there is any indication that you may have breast cancer.

A Clinical Breast Exam by a health care professional is good as a follow-up to your self-examination if you have discovered a lump or suspicion area in your breast. It also should be part of your regular in-office check-up.

Breast ultrasound -- this can be used to verify if a mass is liquid or solid. High frequency sound waves are used and this is painless.

MRI -- magnetic resonance imaging is not painful, but it is a test that should only be undertaken with care because it is not a replacement for biopsy procedures and cannot be used on some patients.

Biopsy -- the physician will remove a small section of a suspicious area of tissue for microscopic examination. When minimally invasive biopsy is performed, the doctor only uses a needle rather than surgery.

Sentinel node biopsy -- under arm lymph nodes are checked to determine if any cancerous cells have spread to the lymphatic system. Dye is used to locate the most likely affected nodes.

Ductal lavage -- the doctor is checking milk duct cell tissue for precancerous cells. This procedure is used in women who are at high risk for developing breast cancer, to obtain early detection. This test is relatively painless.

Early detection is essential in the fight against breast cancer. Testing is reasonably painless and does not interfere with normal activities. Consult with your personal physician about which type of testing is best suited for your individual case.

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