You may have a screening test to look for breast cancer. (Screening tests help your doctor look for a certain disease before any symptoms appear.) The earlier
breast cancer is found, the more easily and
successfully it can be treated.
type and frequency of breast cancer screening that is best for you changes as
you age. The most common ways to find breast cancer early include:
If your doctor thinks that you
have breast cancer, you may have other tests, including:
- More mammograms.
ultrasound. You may have an ultrasound of the breast
if a lump is found during a clinical breast exam or on a mammogram.
MRI of the breast. This is sometimes used to get more
information about a breast lump or to evaluate problems in women who have
breast biopsy. If a lump is found in your breast, your
doctor will need to remove a small sample of the lump (biopsy) and look at it
under a microscope to see whether any cancer cells are present.
- Other tests may be done to help with treatment decisions. These include:
- Estrogen and progesterone receptor status. The hormones estrogen and progesterone stimulate the growth of
normal breast cells as well as some breast cancers. Hormone receptor status is
an important piece of information that will help you and your doctor plan
- HER-2 receptor status. HER-2/neu is a
protein that regulates the growth of some breast cancer cells. About 20 out of 100
women with breast cancer have too much (overexpression) of this
- Gene tests for postmenopausal women with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. These tests can show your chances of the cancer coming back. This can help your doctor tell whether chemotherapy is likely to work for you.
complete blood count (CBC) to provide important
information about the kinds and numbers of cells in your blood.
chemistry screen, to measure the levels of several
substances (such as those involved in liver functions) in your
chest X-ray, to provide a picture of organs and
structures within your chest, including your heart and lungs, your blood
vessels, and the thin sheet of muscle just below your lungs (diaphragm).
Tests if your doctor thinks that breast cancer has spread
If your doctor thinks that breast cancer may have spread
to other organs in your body (metastasized), he or she may order additional
testing, including a bone scan or CT scans.
If you have had breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk for developing breast cancer again. Breast cancer can come back in the same breast, on the chest wall, in your other breast, or somewhere else in your body. You can expect to have:
- Physical exams. The frequency of your physical exams depends on your general health and the type of breast cancer you have. In general, you will see your doctor every 3 to 6 months for 3 years and then every 6 months until 5 years have passed since your diagnosis of breast cancer. Then you may see your doctor once a year.
- Mammograms to screen for breast cancer and to investigate lumps that can be felt during a breast exam.
If you find any unusual changes in the treated area or in your other breast, or if you have swollen lymph glands or bone pain, call your doctor to discuss these changes. For more information, see the topic Breast Cancer, Metastatic or Recurrent.
It is important to know what your breasts normally look and feel like. When you know what is normal for you, you are better able to notice changes. Tell your doctor right away if you notice any changes in your breasts.