Bangalore, the IT haven of India has unfortunately qualified as a leading city with 36.6 cases of breast cancer per lakh of population; such was the poignant revelation of the report released by Population Based Cancer Registry. Other cities need not be relieved as data released by WHO state that around 7 lakh Indians died from cancer in 2012, of which 3.26 lakh were women predominantly afflicted with breast cancer. But, this malady can be nipped in the bud with proper diagnosis at the very outset. Apart from self examination, there are several other diagnostic techniques implemented by oncologists to detect and subsequently prescribe the necessary treatments.
Imaging tests are by far the most preliminary techniques to diagnose for breast cancer. Diagnostic mammograms, breast ultrasound, MRI and ductogram are some of the most prevalent imaging tests.
Diagnostic Mammogram & Breast Ultrasound
A diagnostic mammogram is simply an x-ray used to detect breast disease in case there are no visible signs or symptoms. A mammogram aids in detecting abnormalities such as areas of abnormal tissue growth, lump formation, etc. It actually forms the platform on which other tests like biopsy or ultrasound can be carried out. In this regard, it must be noted that breast ultrasound qualifies as a diagnostic process complementary to diagnostic mammography. Breast ultrasound uses sound waves with the help of transducers to outline specific parts of the breast; this helps in telling a normal fluid filled cyst from a solid lump or tumor which might be cancerous in nature.
Breast MRI & Ductogram
The MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the breast is again used along with a diagnostic mammogram. It has far reaching results when it comes to detecting suspicious areas found in an initial mammogram. On an advanced level, when a woman is detected with breast cancer, MRI helps in determining the actual size of the cancerous tissues, which in turn helps in biopsy. The ductogram on the other hand is efficacious in isolating the cause of nipple discharge. Here, a very thin tube is placed at the affected duct opening and a contrast medium is injected in small quantity. This helps in determining the shape of the duct and presence of any cancerous lump inside.
Biopsy is another diagnostic technique used to detect breast cancer; fine-needle, core needle, lymph node, vacuum assisted and surgical being some of the prominent types. It is the only way to confirm the presence of cancer having found a breast abnormality in a diagnostic mammogram initially.
Fine Needle & Core Needle Biopsy
In case of fine needle, a minimal amount of tissue is withdrawn through a thin and hollow needle. If the tissue or fluid withdrawn is clear or bloody then lumps are probably benign, but if solid tissue fragments are drawn out then they need to be studied under a microscope to examine whether they are cancerous or not. A core needle biopsy aims at collecting larger samples of the abnormal changes in one’s breast. Relatively larger cylindrical portions of the tissues (known as core tissues) are removed thus offering greater clarity in the diagnostic process.
Lymph Node, Vacuum Assisted & Surgical Biopsy
Lymph Node Biopsy, also known as Sentinel Node Biopsy involves use of the needle to check for cancer spread to the lymph nodes under the arm especially after the affected part of the breast is removed during surgery. Vacuum assisted biopsy again involves suction of affected tissues through a miniscule incision using the Automated Tissue Excision and Collection or ATEC system. The bright side is that several tissue samples can be collected from the same area of incision without much scarring. Surgical biopsy is implemented rarely in case the area afflicted with abnormalities is too large to be removed by incision. This is done only when fine needle or core needle biopsies fail to engender concrete results.
The purview of breast cancer diagnosis is not exhaustive since newer and modified techniques are being brought into effect time and again. Tests of cell proliferation, gene patterns and more advanced imaging tests are also being carried out to diagnose breast cancer even better and even more effectively. There may not be a definite solution to this disease as of now, but the evolution of modern diagnostic methods are definitely a step forward towards discovering that desired panacea beyond any doubt.