What to Expect - Breast Cancer

What To Expect
Patient Guide: Breast Cancer

What to Expect

The biggest misconception of breast cancer is that if one has no symptoms, no lump and no family history, they will never suffer from breast cancer. Fact is that one-third of women diagnosed with breast cancer has/had no risk factor. Therefore, it is very important for women to have regular screening tests.


Lab Tests

Test Why Test? What Happens? Normal Results

  • Core needle biopsy
  • Fine needle aspiration
  • Incisional biopsy
  • Excisional biopsy
  • Vacuum assisted breast biopsy
  • FISH(Fluorescence in situ hybridization), IHC(Immuno Histo Chemistry) test
The surest way to identify the cancer cell, in this case the breast cancer cells. A small, non emergency surgical procedure in which local anesthesia is given and small sample of the lump or suspected area is taken and examined under microscope Takes several days to get final result. And several characters of the Ca cells can be identified – size, appearance, growth rate, spreading in to healthy tissues and factors of cancer.
Blood Cell Count To see whether the blood has normal counts of various blood cells Blood is drawn through a syringe, typically from the arm. Reduced WBC – increase high risk of infection RBC – Hemoglobin and Hematocrites if not normal, affects the treatmentPlatelets – helpful for clotting to prevent bleeding – important to know before treatment
Blood Chemistry To measure level of certain substances to determine normal function of various organs Blood is drawn through a syringe, typically from the arm.
  • Level of liver enzymes and bilirubin
  • Potassium, chloride, urea for kidney
  • Calcium level for bone and kidney
  • Blood sugar level – for diabetes and steroids
Blood Marker To detect cancer activity in blood before and during treatment. Also done after treatment to know the response of the cancer Protein material is injected into the blood through arm Diagnose the breast cancer cells and determine the spread to the other parts



Test Why Test? What Happens? Diagnosis
Mammogram Most important tool of doctor to diagnose, evaluate and follow up the breast cancer. Breast are compressed and placed between two clear plates by technician. Plates are connected to highly specialized camera and two pictures for each breast are taken. Can easily diagnose lump of the breastAbnormalities like calcification, cyst and fibro adenomas can be seen in to the pictures.
Ultrasound Not helpful to diagnose, but helps to compliment the diagnosis from other tests Non invasive, sound emitting probe is moved on the breast to conduct the test. Benign tumor can be identified as solid lump.Cyst – fluid filed area can be identified.
MRI Scan Screening high risk women with large breast cancer, gathering more information after suspicion of mammogram/ultrasound Monitoring recurrence after treatment A patient lies on a table that slides inside a large machine. Dye may be injected by syringe into your veins to help make clearer images. Various cross sectional images are taken and shows the lump, calcification and cyst.
CAT Scan and/or PET Scan Doctor may order to assess whether cancer has moved to other parts of body. Contrast solution dye is injected in arm, and then the patient is moved into a doughnut shaped machine. X-rays pass throughout the body to take an image Gives two-dimensional view Identifies large cancer, alteration in lymph nodes, lungs, liver, brain and/or spine
Chest X-ray Ordered by doctor to identify advanced breast cancer spread to lung, chest. May also be administered after treatment to see effect The patient is asked to keep as still as possible for the few seconds it takes for an image to be obtained. During chemotherapy and radiation therapy, pneumonia and inflammation of lungs are identified.
Bone scan (Scinitigraphy) To determine whether breast cancer has travelled to bones. Radioactive material is injected in arm, which will be taken up by bone, making cells visible within 2-4 hrs. A special camera is then used to identify suspicious areas. Initial diagnosis to determine healthy bone During/after treatment used to determine if any joint pain persists or increases


Physical Examination

Test Why Test? What Happens? Diagnosis
Breast Physical Examination Carefully manually performed to find lump or inflammatory signs. Physical examination is performed by physician or health professional. Lump can be easily palpable; redness heat of inflammation can be easily identified. About 20% of breast cancer can be identified without doing mammogram.
BSE – Breast Self Exam Regular breast self checking is important to identify any early lumps. Physical examination advised to be done at least once a month. Try to get acquitted with normal shape of breast Any lump, heaviness or change in appearance of breast needs immediate attention.
What to Expect