What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control forming lump. Its ability to spread to other organs by blood vessels or lymphatics differentiate it from benign or non-cancerous lumps.
Evaluation of Breast Cancer is always done by the Triple method of assessment which includes – Clinical examination by a surgeon, Imaging modalities (Ultrasound, Mammography, or both) and Needle biopsy.
Breast Self-Examination (BSE):
This includes check-up a woman does at home to look for changes or problems in breast tissue & underarms.
Changes to look for or the signs of Breast Cancer include:
- Lump or swelling in breast or underarms
- Nipple discharge – either watery or blood-stained
- Nipple abnormalities like nipple retraction or ulceration
- Skin changes over breast like –
- Redness, thickening or dimpling
- Swelling or lump in armpits
The best time for breast self-examination is a few days after menses, once a month. Women can begin practicing breast self-examination at about age 20 and continue even during pregnancy and menopause as breast cancers can happen during pregnancy and after menopause too.
It is important to be aware of how the breast looks and feels normally so that changes can be reported to the doctor.
- Ultrasound of breasts:
It is an imaging modality that uses sound waves to create images of the inside of the breast. It also differentiates whether a breast lump is a solid mass or a fluid-filled cyst. The advantage is it does not use radiation, unlike mammograms.
This is the commonest diagnostic and screening tool for detecting breast cancer. It finds tumors that are too small to feel and even detects pre-cancerous lesions by picking up characteristic micro-calcifications. Mammographic features of malignancy include asymmetry, mass, or architectural distortion.
- MRI Breast:
Women between the age group of 45-54 can get screening mammograms once a year and then once in two years for further age groups for early detection according to the American Cancer Society.
It is a supplemental tool for breast cancer screening with mammography/ultrasound for women who are at high risk for breast cancer and women who have been treated in the past for breast cancer or have silicone implants. It uses a powerful magnetic field, radio waves and computer to produce detailed pictures of structures within the breast.
- Needle Biopsy:
It is an office procedure where a special needle is inserted in breast tissue under local anaesthesia to take a sample from the area of concern and sent to a pathologist for tissue diagnosis of breast cancer.