Methods to find breast cancer in its early stages
Breast cancer can be treated most effectively if it is detected early, before it has grown very large or spread to other sites. The main ways to detect breast cancer are:
Breast examination by a doctor or nurse
Breast self examination
An x-ray of the breast known as a mammogram can detect some cancers that are too small to be felt. There are two kinds of mammography:
Screening - x-rays that are used to look for breast changes in women who have no signs of breast cancer.
Diagnostic - prescribed for women who have unusual breast changes, such as a lump, pain, nipple thickening or discharge, changes in breast size or shape, or who have had a suspicious screening mammogram.
Experts disagree about the best age for women at average risk of breast cancer to start getting mammograms:
The American Cancer Society recommends that women have a mammogram and clinical breast exam every year starting at age 40.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) suggests that women start having mammograms at age 50 and repeat them every two years. This group also encourages women younger than 50 to talk to their doctor so they can make an informed decision about screening.
These are general recommendations that do not take into account your personal or family medical history. Some women may need to start screening at an earlier age.
Bottom line: Talk to your doctor about your risk for breast cancer and your personal feelings about screening for this disease. Your doctor can suggest a screening schedule that is right for you.
Clinical breast exam
Some cancers cannot be detected in mammograms, so women also should have periodic clinical breast exams done by a doctor or nurse. The provider will examine your breasts while you are sitting and while you are lying down.
The provider looks for:
Changes in the skin, such as dimpling, scaling or puckering.
Nipple discharge or nipple inversion.
Difference in size or shape between the two breasts.
Breast self-exams are a way for women to know how their breasts normally feel and to notice any changes. However, they should not take the place of regular mammograms and clinical breast exams. Mammograms continue to be the gold standard in breast cancer detection and can pick up tumors years before a lump can be felt.
If you choose to do breast self-exams, ask your health care provider to show you how so you know you are doing it correctly.
Ultrasound sends high-frequency sound waves into the breast, creating patterns of echoes that are converted into an image of the breast's interior (a sonogram). Ultrasound is used to help radiologists evaluate some lumps that can be felt but are hard to see on a mammogram. It distinguishes cysts (fluid filled lesions) from solid masses in the breast. However, unlike mammography, ultrasound cannot detect small tumors. It can help with deciding the extent of breast abnormalities, especially for surgical resection.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
The use of MRI for detecting breast cancer is coming out of the research stage and into clinical practice and is available in selected centers order Fildena. MRI uses radiowaves and magnets, a special breast coil and a computer to scan the patient to produce its images. Its usefulness in identifying tissues that are abnormally active is being studied. MRI can be helpful in deciding the extent of breast abnormalities, especially for surgical resection. It is also used along with mammography for women with dense breasts and those who are at high risk. It can help tell between a benign and cancerous lump.