Diagnosing Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer is best treated as early as possible. If you suspect you might have breast cancer, seeing the doctor right away for a check up is best. To understand whether your symptoms are caused by cancer or another condition, your doctor will do a physical exam, breast exam and may also perform one or more diagnostic exams. These diagnostic exams include:
- Mammogram – a Mammogram is an image-screening test that allows the doctor to see under the surface of the breast. This allows for unusual spots to be detected but may need an additional test to confirm when spotted through a mammogram. Most women over 40 get annual mammogram checks.
- Ultrasound – Doctors often use an ultrasound to help diagnose breast conditions. An ultrasound creates images using sound waves that are bounced off body tissue. An ultrasound can help to distinguish between a mass (such as a tumor) and other, non-cancerous breast conditions like cysts.
- Biopsy – there are plenty of different kinds of biopsies. These tests take a sample of the tissue suspected and test it for being cancerous or not.
Stages of Cancer
It is also important for the stage of the cancer to be diagnosed, starting at least severe 0 to most severe at 4. The severity is measured by the size of the tumour and if it has spread.
Factors to diagnose the stage include:
- If the cancer is invasive or noninvasive
- The size of the tumour
- If the cancer has traveled to or effected the lymph nodes
- If the cancer has spread to other organs
Stage 0 Cancer is known as Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS). This means that the cancer is bound to the ductal tissue of the breast and has not spread anywhere else. It is a noninvasive cancer.
- Stage 1A – the cancer tumour is small (2cm or less) and has not spread to lymph nodes or other areas
- Stage 1B – cancerous cells have been found in and around the lymph nodes and/or breast tissue. There is no tumor in the breast or the tumour is small, 2cm or less.
- Stage 2A – This is when the tumour is still small (2cm or less) and has spread to 1-3 lymph nodes or when no lymph nodes have been infected but the cancer is 2-5cm size
- Stage 2B – The tumour is 2-5cm and has spread to axillary lymph nodes (armpit lymph nodes), or it is larger than 5cm and has not spread.
- Stage 3A – The cancer tumour can be any size and has spread to 4-9 axillary lymph nodes or swollen mammary lymph nodes. Or has spread to 1-3 axillary nodes or any breastbone nodes and the tumour is more than 5cm in size.
- Stage 3B – is determined when the cancer has affected the skin or walls of chest tissue, or infected up to 9 lymph nodes. The tumour can be any size.
- Stage 3C – Cancer has invaded chest walls and skin of breast and spread to 10 or more lymph nodes. This stage of cancer is also subdivided into operable and inoperable. Operable meaning lymph nodes affected are below the collarbone and inoperable when lymph nodes above the collar bone have been affected.
At Stage 4 a tumour can be any size, a number of lymph nodes are affected and the cancer has spread to other organs such as lungs, brain, skin.
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