Breast Cancer And How It Can Be Diagnosed

By Joseph Ezie Efoghor

The diagnosis of breast cancer is made only after all careful and thorough examinations of both breasts have been done. Usually both physical, radiographic or infra-red and laboratory examinations are carried out before arriving at a conclusive diagnosis. These have to be examined by the doctor who would decide whether the cells are normal or distorted by cancerous growth.

Physical examination
This is usually done by checking both breasts to see if there are abnormalities in their shape, size, colour, etc. They are checked for unusual rashes, lumps, dimpling, nodules, etc. The nipples may be squeezed to check for fluid discharge.

Besides, should there be any lump (whether small or big), the shape and texture is checked to be sure if it is benign or malignant cancer. Malignant lumps are likely to be hard, firmly attached and odd, whereas benign tumours are likely to be movable, soft and smooth.

This is the radiographic or infra-red examination of the breasts to detect abnormalities. Abnormalities to look out for include lumps or precancerous cells. It is advisable for women who are already 40 years or older to have mammograms every 1 or 2 years. This usually helps to detect any strange development even before they become palpable or visible to the naked eyes.

This is another way of detecting cancerous cells. It involves measuring the amount of heat given off by the breast, using infra-red photography. Usually the amount of blood supplied to the cancerous cells is higher than that supplied to the surrounding normal cells. This method can be used for the early detection of breast cancer.

This is the removal of some tissues of breast for special examination for the purpose of diagnosing breast cancer. This can either be aspiration, excisional, needle or punch biopsy.

Ultrasound are ultrasonic waves used for the examination of interior organs of the body. This can also be used to determine whether the lump felt on palpation of the breasts is cancerous or not. The computer pictures produced would show the type of lump, if it is solid or just a cyst.

Laboratory investigations
Apart from the afore-mentioned examinations, laboratory investigations could be ordered to determine the actual cause of the cancer. Some of the tests that could be done include hormone receptor test to determine if the tumour is caused by oestrogen or progesterone or both; and HER2/neu test to determine whether the tumour is caused by HER2/neu protein.

However, diagnosis should not be made in haste until all necessary investigations are carried out. This is because some conditions of the breast may resemble cancer: to avoid wrong diagnosis and danger arising from the application of wrong therapy, thorough investigations have to be done. After the investigations, the results are interpreted by the doctor before prescription of drugs and treatments are commenced.

Join My Health Forum to learn more on how to take care of your health. Joseph Ezie Efoghor is a Registered Nurse and Safety Officer. To get more of his write-ups, visit


Post a Comment