Diagnosing breast cancer
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers that affect women, second only to skin cancer. Every year, more than 300,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with invasive or non-invasive breast cancer.
While these statistics seem alarming, there is good news. About one in five new cases of breast cancer are caught at the earliest stage, when it's most curable.
Even if you were not diagnosed early, there is still hope. We offer the latest treatments, even for cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of your body.
Early detection and screening for breast cancer
Even though breast cancer still claims lives, more women than ever before survive it. This is thanks in part to growing awareness that breast cancer can be detected early, before you have symptoms.
At The Christ Hospital Health Network, we know that early cancer detection saves lives. That's why we offer breast cancer screening tests that can find cancer in all types of breasts, even those with dense tissue.
The two main types of breast cancer screening tests we offer are:
Traditional mammograms—2-D X-ray pictures of the breasts that show early signs of breast cancer, even in women without symptoms. Screening mammograms can detect breast cancer up to two years before it is large enough to be felt.
3-D mammograms (digital breast tomosynthesis)—this test captures multiple pictures of the breast and reconstructs it into a 3-D image. It may provide more accurate results for women who have dense breast tissue.
Learn more about mammography services at The Christ Hospital Health Network.
Some breast cancer is caused by an inherited gene mutation (meaning it passes down to family members from one generation to the next). If you have one of these genes, your risk of breast cancer is significantly higher than average.
The Christ Hospital Health Network offers genetic testing. If you test positive for one of the two most common genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, you will likely need screening exams more often (and at a younger age) than most women.
Besides having annual screening mammograms, you should perform monthly breast self-examinations at home. If you are familiar with how your breasts look and feel, you can detect important changes such as a lump in your breast, dimpled patches of skin or unusual discharge from your nipple.
State-of-the-art breast cancer diagnosis
If you have symptoms of breast cancer, or your screening mammogram shows an abnormality, your doctor may order one or more tests to confirm (or rule out) breast cancer.
These tests include:
Ultrasound-guided biopsy—this type of biopsy is done if a suspicious lump or mass is felt or seen by an ultrasound.
Stereotactic-guided biopsy—this type of biopsy is done if suspicious micro calcifications (tiny calcium specks) are seen during a screening or diagnostic mammogram.
Breast MRI—a test that takes pictures of the breast using magnets and radio waves instead of X-ray radiation. It captures 3-D pictures that can show abnormalities in your breast in greater detail.
Breast ultrasound—a test that uses sound waves instead of X-ray radiation to take pictures of your breast. It can help tell the difference between a solid cancerous mass and benign (non-cancerous) cysts that may be filled with fluid or air.
If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, your breast surgeon or medical oncologist will gather specific information about your cancer to recommend the most up-to-date and personalized treatment for you. The types of tests that may be done are:
This helps doctors plan treatment options and assess your outlook (prognosis).
Learn more about breast cancer treatment options at The Christ Hospital Health Network, or refer to our cancer resources for more information about your specific type of cancer.