Exams and Tests
You may have a screening test to look for breast cancer. (Screening tests help your doctor look for a certain disease before any symptoms appear.) The earlier breast cancer is found, the more easily and successfully it can be treated.
The Reference type and frequency of breast cancer screening that is best for you changes as you age. The most common ways to find breast cancer early include:
- Reference Mammogram Opens New Window. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast that can often find tumors that are too small for you or your doctor to feel.
- Reference Clinical breast examination (CBE) Opens New Window. Your doctor may do this exam during your routine physical exam.
- Reference Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast. MRI is a test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to provide pictures of the inside of the breast. It may be used as a screening test for women who are at high risk.
If your doctor thinks that you have breast cancer, you may have other tests, including:
- More Reference mammograms.
- An Reference ultrasound. You may have an ultrasound of the breast if a lump is found during a clinical breast exam or on a mammogram.
- An Reference MRI of the breast. This is sometimes used to get more information about a breast lump or to evaluate problems in women who have breast implants.
- A Reference breast biopsy. If a lump is found in your breast, your doctor will need to remove a small sample of the lump (biopsy) and look at it under a microscope to see whether any cancer cells are present.
- Other tests may be done to help with treatment decisions. These include:
- Reference Estrogen and progesterone receptor status Opens New Window. The hormones estrogen and progesterone stimulate the growth of normal breast cells as well as some breast cancers. Hormone receptor status is an important piece of information that will help you and your doctor plan treatment.
- Reference HER-2 receptor status Opens New Window. HER-2/neu is a protein that regulates the growth of some breast cancer cells. About 20 out of 100 women with breast cancer have too much (overexpression) of this growth-promoting protein.Reference 5
- Gene tests for postmenopausal women with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. These tests can show your chances of the cancer coming back. This can help your doctor tell whether chemotherapy is likely to work for you.
- A Reference complete blood count (CBC) to provide important information about the kinds and numbers of cells in your blood.
- A Reference chemistry screen, to measure the levels of several substances (such as those involved in liver functions) in your blood.
- A Reference chest X-ray, to provide a picture of organs and structures within your chest, including your heart and lungs, your blood vessels, and the thin sheet of muscle just below your lungs (diaphragm).
Tests if your doctor thinks that breast cancer has spread
If you have had breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk for developing breast cancer again. Breast cancer can come back in the same breast, on the chest wall, in your other breast, or somewhere else in your body. You can expect to have:
- Physical exams. The frequency of your physical exams depends on your general health and the type of breast cancer you have. In general, you will see your doctor every 3 to 6 months for 3 years and then every 6 months until 5 years have passed since your diagnosis of breast cancer. Then you may see your doctor once a year.
- Reference Mammograms to screen for breast cancer and to investigate lumps that can be felt during a breast exam.
If you find any unusual changes in the treated area or in your other breast, or if you have swollen lymph glands or bone pain, call your doctor to discuss these changes. For more information, see the topic Reference Breast Cancer, Metastatic or Recurrent.
It is important to know what your breasts normally look and feel like. When you know what is normal for you, you are better able to notice changes. Tell your doctor right away if you notice any changes in your breasts.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference October 22, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference Catherine D. Serio, PhD - Behavioral Health