A Comprehensive Guide to Breast Cancer Diagnosis: What You Need to Know
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Breast cancer can be categorized into two main types: invasive and non-invasive. Non-invasive breast cancer is also called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). DCIS is when abnormal cells are found in the milk ducts of the breast. These cells have not spread to the surrounding breast tissue and have not metastasized to other parts of the body.
Invasive breast cancer is when abnormal cells have spread to the surrounding breast tissue and possibly other parts of the body. There are several subtypes of invasive breast cancer, including:
- Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC): This is the most common type of invasive breast cancer, accounting for about 80% of all cases. IDC begins in the milk ducts of the breast and then spreads to the surrounding breast tissue. The most typical form of breast cancer is invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), also known as invading ductal carcinoma. The American Cancer Society estimates that IDC accounts for about 75% of all breast tumors. Invasive refers to cancer's invasion of nearby breast cells. If cancer is ductal, it indicates that it first developed in the milk ducts, which are the tubes that carry milk from the lobules to the nipple. Any cancer that develops in the epidermis or other tissues that cover internal organs, such as breast tissue, is referred to as a carcinoma. The American Cancer Society predicts that in 2022, 287,850 new instances of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women, with IDC accounting for the majority of these cases.
- Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC): ILC is the second most common type of invasive breast cancer, accounting for about 10% of all cases. ILC begins in the lobules, which are the milk-producing glands of the breast and then spreads to the surrounding breast tissue. ILC begins in the mammary glands (lobules) that produce milk. Like IDC, it can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Invasive lobular carcinoma may be more difficult to detect than invasive ductal carcinoma during a physical examination and imaging (eg, mammography). And compared to other invasive carcinomas, it is more likely to affect both breasts. About one in five women with ILC may have cancer in both breasts at the time of diagnosis.
- Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC): IBC is a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. IBC occurs when cancer cells block the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast, causing the breast to become red, swollen, and inflamed. Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare subtype of locally advanced breast cancer according to the TNM breast cancer staging system. Despite its low incidence, IBC contributes to 7% of breast cancer-caused mortality. This activity describes the evaluation and management of inflammatory breast cancer and highlights the role of the interprofessional team in the care of patients with this condition.
Breast Cancer Diagnosis
If you or your doctor suspects that you may have breast cancer, there are several tests and procedures that may be used to make a diagnosis. These tests may include:
- Breast exam: Your doctor will perform a physical exam of your breasts to look for any lumps, bumps, or other abnormalities.
- Mammogram: A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast tissue. It is used to look for any lumps or other abnormalities in the breast tissue.
- Ultrasound: An ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of breast tissue. It can be used to look for any lumps or other abnormalities that may not be visible on a mammogram.
- MRI: An MRI uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create images of breast tissue. It can be used to look for any abnormalities that may not be visible on a mammogram or ultrasound.
- Biopsy: A biopsy is when a small sample of tissue is removed from the breast and examined under a microscope to look for cancer cells. There are several types of biopsies, including:
- Fine needle aspiration biopsy: A thin needle is used to remove a small sample of tissue from the breast.
- Core needle biopsy: A larger needle is used to remove a small sample of tissue from the breast.
- Surgical biopsy: A surgeon removes a larger sample of tissue from the breast.
- Blood tests: Blood tests may be done to check for certain markers that may indicate the presence of breast cancer.
Once a diagnosis of breast cancer has been made, additional tests may be done to determine the stage of breast cancer and whether it has spread to other parts of the body, doctors may use a variety of medical tests. Here is an overview of the most commonly used tests:
- Imaging tests: Mammograms, ultrasounds, and MRIs are used to create images of the breast tissue and surrounding areas to help doctors detect any abnormalities or areas of concern.
- Biopsy: A biopsy involves the removal of a small amount of breast tissue for examination under a microscope to determine if cancer cells are present.
- Blood tests: Blood tests can be used to detect certain proteins that may indicate the presence of breast cancer or how advanced it is.
- Lymph node biopsy: If breast cancer is suspected to have spread, a lymph node biopsy may be performed to remove and examine lymph nodes for the presence of cancer cells.
These tests, along with a patient's medical history and physical examination, are crucial in determining the stage of breast cancer and developing an appropriate treatment plan. Early detection and treatment can significantly improve the chances of survival, making it important for women to schedule regular breast cancer screenings and exams.