Breast cancer does not show any symptoms in the initial stages. Formation of lumps and cysts in the breasts are quite common and most of them are benign in nature. But these lumps, cysts or fibroids can turn cancerous depending on the individual. One should go for various screening tests of breast cancer if certain changes are observed in the breast.
1. Formation of lumps or hardening around the breast or in the under arms.
2. Any change in the shape and size of the breast.
3. Crumpling of the breast skin.
4. Discharge from the nipple.
5. Retraction of the nipple.
6. Skin of the breast or the areola turns red, scaly forming ridges and pits.
It is the responsible of the health care provider to guide the patient through proper screening in confirming the malignancy of the breast lumps.
Diagnosis of breast cancer – Breast cancer can be detected even before the appearance of the symptoms. Women above 50 and having history of breast cancer in family can go for cancer detection tests just for a precautionary measure. Breast cancer can be cured easily if detected earlier.
Clinical breast examination – The doctors do a thorough breast examination like the shape of the breasts, condition of the skin and on finding any abnormal signs the nipples may be squeezed to check for any discharge. The size and nature of the lumps in the breast and in lymphatic glands are also checked throughout the entire chest and underarm areas.
Mammograms – This test can detect the breast lumps through X-rays even before they are felt. Mammograms also show micro calcifications which are also responsible for breast cancer.
It is advisable for women above 40 to go for a mammogram check up every 2 years. Following the results of the mammogram the doctor advises for further imaging tests to detect breast cancer.
Other imaging tests
1. Ultrasound tests using sound waves are advised if breast lumps are detected. Through these ultrasound tests the nature of the lumps whether it is solid or fluid filled can be detected.
2. MRI helps in differentiating between the normal tissues and the diseased ones using powerful magnets and by studying the images which are captured in the computer.
Biopsy – This test confirms the presence of cancer. A part of the tissue from the abnormal area is tested in several ways in biopsy like needle biopsy, core biopsy, skin biopsy and surgical biopsy.
Lab test of breast tissue – If breast cancer is detected, the doctors advise hormone receptor tests or HER2/neu test to detect the presence of hormones and proteins that are responsible for the growth of breast tumors.