Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among Israeli women. The disease can be diagnosed in 1 of every 8 Israeli women, throughout their lives. This sounds scary, and yet, the good news is that the chances of recovery from breast cancer today are excellent, and the earlier you are diagnosed, the better are your chances of recovery. Thanks to great advantages in all that relates to early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer in the past few decades, we can achieve full recovery in many cases.
What are the procedures used to diagnose breast cancer?
Breast cancer can be expressed as a finding in a self-examination or a doctor’s examination, or as a finding in an imaging test – mammography, ultrasound or breast MRI. The most common finding is a lump, however it is important to remember that not every lump in your breast is cancerous.
Other expressions of breast cancer might be:
- Nipple changes
- Breast deformation
- Skin thickening
- Blood secretion from the nipple
- Skinny scales near the nipple (extremely rare)
Each of these symptoms can also express a benign situation, and only a complete evaluation, including a doctor’s examination, can determine whether this is breast cancer.
Mammography – suspicious findings of breast cancer might be:
- Change in breast tissue (architectural deformation)
- Thickness or calcification – a finding that can testify of either a benign or malignant process.
Ultrasound – mostly detects lumps in breasts.
MRI – detects lumps and “אזורי האדרה” which are areas that the material injected to in the test accumulates in the tissues.
Also in this case it is important to remember that not every lump and not every finding in an imaging test (like a mammography or ultrasound) are cancerous. Some of the findings will be determined benign, but again – in most cases only a biopsy can diagnose the finding for sure.
How to Understand the Imaging Test Results?
Today, it is accepted to summarize every imaging using a “grade” called BIRADS (initials of Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System).
- BIRADS0 – an incomplete exam (need for additional shoots or exams)
- BIRADS1 – standard exam, no findings.
- BIRADS2 – an exam with benign findings, with no fear of cancer.
- BIRADS3 – this is a grade given to a finding which is most likely benign, but there is some uncertainty about it, and therefore we recommend further clarifications – another shooting, a short-term follow-up or a biopsy.
- BIRADS4 – this finding is probably cancerous, and such a finding should undergo a biopsy to verify its nature.
- BIRADS5 – this is a finding which is suspicious as cancerous, and such a finding should undergo a biopsy to confirm or deny the diagnosis (also in grade 5, some of the findings may turn out as benign).
- BIRAD6 – this is a grade given to a known tumor, proven by a biopsy.
How to Diagnose Breast Cancer?
As mentioned, the diagnosis of breast cancer relies on a biopsy – this is an invasive procedure, in which a small piece of tissue is taken from the tumor, under local anesthesia, and given to a microscopic or histologic exam. Only based on the biopsy results it is possible to determine that we are dealing with breast cancer. In addition, the biopsy results may point out to the nature of the tumor.