Breast cancer screening
You and your doctor can determine the right approach to screening for breast cancer based on your age, your health history, and the make up of your breast tissue.
According to the National Cancer Institute, mammography is the most common screening test for breast cancer. It provides a low-risk way to determine the existence of cancer in the breast. For some types of cancer, the chances for a complete recovery are greater if found and treated at an early stage.
A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast taken while pressed between two plates. A 3D mammogram gives doctors a three-dimensional view of the breast by converting digital breast images into a stack of very thin layers. From these images, a computer builds a three-dimensional image of the breast—one that allows doctors to “pull away” layers of the image to get a more complete view of all the breast tissue because finer details are more visible.
The advantages of mammograms are the ability to find tumors too small to feel and being able to find ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a condition where abnormal cells in the breast duct may become cancer.
Tumors may be harder to find on a mammogram if there is dense breast tissue. Your doctor can arrange for additional screening tests if you are concerned about dense breast tissue.
Clinical breast exam
During a clinic visit your doctor will carefully feel your breasts and underarms, checking for anything unusual.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
This form of imaging uses radio waves and a large magnet to create detailed images of areas inside the body. Typically MRI is chosen for women who have certain genetic make ups and a higher risk of breast cancer due to family history.
The detail of MRI results can help in finding breast cancer. The detail can also produce results that might appear abornmal even though there is no cancer.
Currently clinical trials are measuring the effectiveness of using fluid samples drawn from the breast to determine the presence of breast cancer.