Understanding Breast Cancer Related Tests
Whether you’re ready to get your first screening mammogram or want to know more about follow-up tests after an abnormal finding, learning about breast cancer screening tests can help you take charge of your health. Most breast-cancer-related tests fall into one or more of the following categories:
Screening tests like your yearly mammogram are given routinely to people who appear to be healthy and are not experiencing any warning signs of cancer. The purpose of these tests is to find breast cancer early before any symptoms can develop and when the cancer is typically easier to treat. CMC offers 3D mammograms which provide the clearest images to help find breast cancer early, sometimes up to 10 years before it could be detected by you or your doctor.
Diagnostic Tests and Staging Tests
Diagnostic tests, such as biopsy, are given to people who are suspected of having breast cancer, either because of symptoms they may be experiencing or a screening test result. These tests are used to determine whether breast cancer is present. Diagnostic tests are also used to gather more information about your particular cancer which will help guide decisions about your treatment.
Some common follow-up diagnostic tests are:
- Diagnostic mammogram A diagnostic mammogram is like a screening mammogram, but more images of the breast are taken to examine the abnormal findings more closely.
- Breast ultrasound A breast ultrasound uses sound waves to make images of the breast. It’s often used as a follow-up test after an abnormal finding on a mammogram or clinical breast exam. It can show the difference between a liquid-filled cyst and a solid mass.
- Breast MRI A breast MRI uses magnetic fields to create an image of the breast. In some cases, your doctor may recommend a breast MRI as a follow-up test if other tests can’t rule out breast cancer.
- Biopsy If follow-up tests cannot rule out breast cancer, a biopsy is done. A biopsy removes cells or tissue to check for cancer. A biopsy is the only test that can diagnose and confirm breast cancer.
Once your doctor has diagnosed your breast cancer, they will work to establish the stage of your cancer and determine whether or not it has traveled outside the breast Your cancer’s stage helps determine your prognosis and the best treatment options.
Tests and procedures used to stage breast cancer may include:
- Blood tests, such as a complete blood count
- Breast MRI
- Bone scan
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
Not all women will need all of these tests and procedures. Your doctor will select which tests are needed based on your specific circumstances and take into account new symptoms you may be experiencing.
During and after treatment many tests can be used, some of which are mentioned above, to monitor how well therapies are working. Monitoring tests also may be used to check for any signs of recurrence after treatment is complete.
Breast Exams at Conway Medical Center
At Conway Medical Center, breast cancer screening exams are performed by a team of experts, including radiologists whose sole focus is interpreting the results of breast cancer imaging tests. We offer breast cancer screening services, including mammography, at our Imaging Center in Conway and throughout Horry County on the CMC Mobile Mammography Center.
We want all women to benefit from the most sophisticated breast care available. That is why CMC is one of the first hospitals in the region to offer screening 3-D mammograms without a physician’s order at our imaging center or on our CMC Mobile Mammography Center. Financial assistance is also available through the CMC Foundation for those who qualify. Simply call 843-234-5474 to schedule your appointment today.