Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Doctors often use additional tests to find or diagnose breast cancer. They may refer women to a breast specialist or a surgeon. This does not mean that she has cancer or that she needs surgery.

Breast ultrasound: A machine that uses sound waves to make detailed pictures, called sonograms, of areas inside the breast.

Diagnostic mammogram: If you have a problem in your breast, such as lumps, or if an area of the breast looks abnormal on a screening mammogram, doctors may have you get a diagnostic mammogram. This is a more detailed X-ray of the breast.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A kind of body scan that uses a magnet linked to a computer. The MRI scan will make detailed pictures of areas inside the breast.

Biopsy: This is a test that removes tissue or fluid from the breast to be looked at under a microscope and do more testing. There are different kinds of biopsies (fine-needle aspiration, core biopsy, or open biopsy).

Breast Cancer Stages

Stage 0
This is the very beginning of the scale. It describes noninvasive breast cancers or precancers. Within stage 0, there is no evidence that cancer cells or other abnormal cells have invaded neighboring normal tissue.

Stage 1
Stage 1 describes a very early stage of invasive cancer. At this point, tumor cells have spread to normal surrounding breast tissue but are still contained in a small area.

Stage 2
Stage 2 describes cancer that is in a limited region of the breast but has grown larger. It reflects how many lymph nodes may contain cancer cells.

Stage 3
Stage 3 is where the cancer has spread further into the breast or the tumor is a larger size than earlier stages.

Stage 4
Stage 4 is the most advanced stage of breast cancer. It has spread to nearby lymph nodes and to distant parts of the body beyond the breast. This means it possibly involves your organs — such as the lungs, liver, or brain — or your bones. Breast cancer may be stage 4 when it is first diagnosed, or it can be a recurrence of a previous breast cancer that has spread.

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