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Female Breast Cancer (Female Breast Carcinoma): Tests

Cancer that forms in tissues of the breast, usually the ducts (tubes that carry milk to the nipple) and lobules (glands that make milk).

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

Tests for Female Breast Cancer

Tests that examine the breasts are used to detect (find) and diagnose breast cancer.

A doctor should be seen if changes in the breast are noticed. The following tests and procedures may be used:

  • Physical exam and history: An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient's health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
  • Clinical breast exam (CBE): An exam of the breast by a doctor or other health professional. The doctor will carefully feel the breasts and under the arms for lumps or anything else that seems unusual.
  • Mammogram: An x-ray of the breast...

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What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Suspected Cancer: Recognition and Referral

Cancer is an important condition, both in terms of the number of people affected and the impacts on those people and the people close to them. Around one third of a million new cancers are diagnosed annually in the UK, across over 200 different cancer types. Each of these cancer types has different presenting features, though there may be overlap. More than one third of the population will develop a cancer in their lifetime. Although there have been large advances in treatment and survival, with a half of cancer sufferers now living at least ten years after diagnosis, it remains the case that more than a quarter of all people alive now will die of cancer.

Different follow‐up strategies for women after breast cancer treatment

Review question: Whether an intensive follow‐up decreases the number of recurrences or deaths and affects health‐related quality of life (HRQoL) compared with a less intensive follow‐up and whether a follow‐up offered by specialists is different from that performed by family physicians.

A systematic review and economic evaluation of intraoperative tests [RD-100i one-step nucleic acid amplification (OSNA) system and Metasin test] for detecting sentinel lymph node metastases in breast cancer

Study found that one-step nucleic acid amplification is not cost-effective for the intraoperative diagnosis of sentinel lymph nodes metastases in breast cancer and that the evidence on Metasin is insufficient to evaluate its cost-effectiveness.

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Summaries for consumers

The breast cancer screening program in Germany

In Germany, women between the ages of 50 and 69 can have a free mammogram every two years. The aim is to detect breast cancer as soon as possible in order to provide better treatment and increase the chances of recovery. But mammograms can have drawbacks too. For instance, they may lead to unnecessary treatment. In screening programs, everyone in a certain age group is offered a specific screening test. The costs are covered by statutory health insurers. In Germany, women between the ages of 50 and 69 receive a letter from their regional mammography program center, inviting them to have a mammogram. The letter includes a suggested appointment time and date, as well as information about the screening test. They can decide themselves whether or not they would like to have a mammogram. A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. To ensure a high level of quality, mammograms are only carried out at specialized facilities that are part of the German mammography screening program. It is important to be aware that mammograms cannot prevent breast cancer. Before having a mammogram, every woman has a right to talk about the pros and cons of the test in a personal appointment with a doctor who is part of the mammography program. Women who want to do this have to make an appointment themselves beforehand, through a regional mammography program center (“Zentrale Stelle“). Generally speaking, no doctors are present during the mammography procedure itself.

Diagnostic tests for metastatic breast cancer

A number of different kinds of tests can be used to detect breast cancer or metastatic tumors elsewhere in the body. They are often combined to get a more accurate diagnosis. The treatment approach can then be chosen based on the outcomes of the tests. Your doctor is the first person to go to if you suspect you might have breast cancer, or if you think it has become worse or come back again. This might be your family doctor, your gynecologist or a specialist for outpatient cancer treatment. Different types of tests might be needed, depending on your symptoms. Your doctor might examine you or refer you to a hospital or specialized breast cancer center. A breast cancer center is a specialized hospital department or several specialized departments that work together. In Germany, special “certified” breast cancer centers examine and treat people who have cancer according to special criteria to ensure high quality care. Specialists working in breast cancer centers include gynecologists, psycho-oncologists, nurses and other medical professionals. Before any examination the doctor will always ask you about your symptoms, your general state of health and medical history. It is important that the doctor takes the time to explain the following things: Why the examination needs to be doneHow it is done and what can be found out by doing itWhether it is associated with any risks or side effects (e.g. exposure to radiation or a wound after minor surgery)What other kinds of examinations are possibleWhat can be done if you decide not to have the examinationsWhen you will get the results and discuss them You always have the right to refuse any of the tests. The examinations and staging approach listed here are those described in the latest, German-language, breast cancer clinical practice guideline issued by the German Cancer Society and the German Society of Gynecology and Obstetrics. Clinical practice guidelines act as decision aids for doctors and patients. They aim to help guarantee that treatment is the best it can be and quality-assured. Evidence-based guidelines will ideally be based on the results of good-quality research.

Different follow‐up strategies for women after breast cancer treatment

Review question: Whether an intensive follow‐up decreases the number of recurrences or deaths and affects health‐related quality of life (HRQoL) compared with a less intensive follow‐up and whether a follow‐up offered by specialists is different from that performed by family physicians.

See all (25)

Terms to know

Biopsy
A procedure in which a tiny piece of a body part, such as the colon or liver, is removed for examination with a microscope.
Breast
Glandular organ located on the chest. The breast is made up of connective tissue, fat, and breast tissue.
Diagnostic Ultrasound (Ultrasonography)
A procedure that uses high-energy sound waves to look at tissues and organs inside the body. The sound waves make echoes that form pictures of the tissues and organs on a computer screen.
Duct
In medicine, a tube or vessel of the body through which fluids pass.
Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS)
A noninvasive condition in which abnormal cells are found in the lining of a breast duct.
Lobule
A small lobe or a subdivision of a lobe.
Neoplasm (Tumor)
An abnormal mass of tissue that results when cells divide more than they should or do not die when they should. Neoplasms may be benign (not cancer), or malignant (cancer). Also called tumor.
Nipples
In anatomy, the small raised area in the center of the breast.

More about Female Breast Cancer (Female Breast Carcinoma): Tests

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Other terms to know: See all 8
Biopsy, Breast, Diagnostic Ultrasound (Ultrasonography)

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