The number of women diagnosed with breast cancer in India increasing rapidly. Many of these women get detected in advanced stages, reducing their chance of cure. October is celebrated as breast cancer awareness month. Let’s discuss which are the best test to accurately diagnose breast cancer in an early stage.
- Get an examination done by a doctor (clinical examination) to check if further tests are required if there is a suspicion of cancer.
- The first test done generally is mammography which is an x-ray of your breast which may show lumps, if there are any. This is a relatively simple test and is available widely. It is important that you get it done in in a centre where they have high quality equipment and expertise. Three dimensional mammogram called tomosynthesis is the standard of care.
- If there are suspicious lumps on mammogram, the doctor will ask you for a sonography (USG) of the breast. This is a simple test which will help the doctors to differentiate between cancer and normal lumps in the breast.
- If there is a suspicion of Cancer, the doctor will advise for a core biopsy test. They will take a small part of the lump and examine it under microscope. It is important that the biopsy is done by a highly skilled doctor and examined by an expert pathologist who specialise in cancer diagnosis. A simple procedure called FNAC was performed commonly earlier, but is not recommended now since it does not give all the relevant details and has a high chance of missing the cancer.
- In some patients we may advise an MRI examination to look at the breast in more details if we are not able to see the cancer on mammography or sonography. MRI is very accurate but it takes much longer time and is expensive.
- If the diagnosis of Cancer is made on previous investigations then the doctor may ask you for further tests such as PET scan. This can detect cancer in the whole of the body if it has spread.
- The most efficient way to detect cancer in an early stage is to look for it. All women should do self - breast examination on monthly basis to look for any lumps in the breast or in the armpits. This will ensure your diagnosis of breast cancer in in time and will have a much better cure rate. Please see the video below for details of how to do the Self – breast examination.
If a lady notices a lump in her breast it should be investigated.
- Self-breast examination
- Mammography and sonography
- MRI breast and PET scan if indicated
- Delay in doing tests
- FNAC test
- Diagnosis and treatment by non – specialists doctors
- Starting treatment in a rush without proper diagnosis
Large majority of lumps in breast are not cancers. if you feel a lump, get it checked without delay to rule out cancer. Do it from a centre of excellence where all facilities are available under one roof along with cancer specialists (oncologists) who specialise in treatment of breast cancer.