Breast Cancer Diagnostics
The following describes methods for evaluating and diagnosing a patient’s breast cancer. For specific information regarding your health and treatment options, please contact your Hurley physician or medical professional.
Screening and Diagnostics for Breast Cancer
You should have an annual breast exam and mammography after you turn 40 to ensure that any breast conditions are diagnosed and treated as early as possible. These include the following:
1. Clinical Breast Exam: Your doctor will thoroughly examine both of your breasts, feeling for any lumps or other abnormalities.
2. Mammogram: A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast and is commonly used to screen for breast cancer. If an abnormality is detected on a screening mammogram, your doctor may recommend a diagnostic mammogram for further evaluation. At Hurley we have the latest in digital mammography technology.
3. Breast Ultrasound: Ultrasound uses sound waves to produce images of areas deep within the body. Your doctor may recommend a breast ultrasound to help determine whether a breast abnormality is likely to be a fluid-filled cyst or a solid mass, which may be either benign (non-cancerous) or cancerous. If a solid mass is found, breast ultrasound is helpful in guiding radiologic biopsy to get a sample of breast tissue.
4. Biopsy: A biopsy is a procedure in which cells are removed from the breast in order to be examined under a microscope to see if they are cancerous. A biopsy sample is also analyzed to determine the type of cells involved in the breast cancer, the aggressiveness (grade) of the cancer, and whether the cancer cells have hormone receptors.
5. Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): An MRI machine uses a magnet and radio waves to create pictures of the interior of a breast. This test may be ordered after a breast biopsy confirms the presence of cancer, but before surgery. An MRI helps reveal the extent of the cancer and whether cancer exists in the other breast.
New, larger MRI machine now at Hurley
Hurley Medical Center has recently (2011) acquired a new state-of-the-art MRI machine, the only one of its kind to be located inside a hospital in Genesee County. Now our patients no longer need to be transported to MRI facilities outside of the medical center, when seconds count. With advanced technology delivering superior image quality, Hurley’s new MRI machine has a larger opening so that patients feel more at ease during a scan, especially larger patients or patients who do not like the feeling of being closed in with other MRI machines.
Determining if breast cancer has spread
If the presence of breast cancer is suspected, the next step is to determine the nature of the cancerous cells or tumors and to pinpoint the degree to which the cancer has spread. During your appointment, your Hurley physician will ask you questions about your medical history and conduct a complete physical examination. He or she may then order tests and procedures depending on your situation.
Staging breast cancer
Once your doctor has diagnosed your breast cancer, he/she will try to establish the extent (stage) of your cancer. Tests and procedures used to stage breast cancer may include: blood tests, a mammogram of the other breast to look for signs of cancer, a chest X-ray, a breast MRI, a bone scan, a computerized tomography (CT) scan, and/or a positron emission tomography (PET) scan.
Breast cancer stages range from 0 to IV, with 0 indicating cancer that is very small and noninvasive. Stage IV breast cancer, also called metastatic breast cancer, means that cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
The oncologists at Hurley Medical Center work closely with the hospital’s pathologists to conduct tissue biopsies and other tests to determine the specific type of cancer cells or tumors found in the breast. We use a range of advanced tools to provide patients and physicians with an accurate and timely diagnosis. Together, our primary goal is to ensure patient safety and enable the most effective diagnostic and treatment planning.
Women at high-risk for breast cancer
In many cases, a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer can be determined by genetic testing or other documented risk factors. A woman suspected to be at high risk can then receive closer follow-up and screening (more frequent mammogram or breast MRIs) or drug therapy to reduce her risk of developing breast cancer. Hurley has access to a Michigan State University genetic counselor who meets with patients who have been referred by their physician (usually their oncology surgeon or medical oncologist).
Hurley Breast Health Nurse Navigator
From diagnosis to treatment to long-term follow-up, Hurley Medical Center’s Breast Health Nurse Navigator helps breast cancer patients navigate the complicated and stressful world of breast cancer. Click here for more information about the Breast Health Nurse Navigator program at Hurley Medical Center.