Breast Ultrasounds and Early Breast Cancer Detection

What is a Breast Ultrasound procedure?

As the term implies, a breast ultrasound test makes use of high-frequency sound waves to map an image of the breast. It is used to examine, diagnose and treat conditions of the breasts. Ultrasound is different from a mammogram, which uses x-ray. An ultrasound test may be done following a mammogram to investigate its results.

How a Breast Ultrasound Works

First a device known as a transducer is moved over the area to be scanned. The transducer emits sound waves which are then converted into an image by a computer. This image is called an ultrasound scan or sonogram, and can be viewed in a monitor.

Uses of a Breast Ultrasound

A doctor may request for an ultrasound for different reasons:

– To see what may be causing swelling, redness or other discomfort

– To determine the nature of a breast tumor or lump found during examination by either the patient or doctor

– To help with breast surgery, biopsy or draining of fluid

– To investigate the findings in a mammogram

– To monitor the growth of a breast tumor

– To examine the breasts of women with dense breast mass (usually young women)

Advantages of Breast Ultrasound

Ultrasound tests are ideal for certain cases. Although the mammogram is still the best type of examination tool, there are situations when a mammogram is not very effective or perhaps dangerous. Some cases in which an ultrasound may be preferred instead of a mammogram are:

– When the woman has dense breasts (too dense to be examined in a mammogram)

– When the woman is pregnant

– When the patient must not be exposed to x-rays

– When the patient has had breast implants

Another benefit of ultrasound tests is that they are non-invasive, painless and free of side effects. You can have an ultrasound as often as needed. Results are instant, so it can be used to guide surgery. If you have a history of breast cancer in your family, it is a good idea to have an ultrasound regularly for early detection.

What to Do Expect in a Breast Ultrasound Exam

Wear clothes that are easy to undress at the top.

Remove the upper garment for the exam.

Remove all jewelry around the neck and breast area.

A special gel will be applied on the skin. This facilitates scanning.

The result may be ready in 15-30 minutes.

A radiologist will interpret the ultrasound scan.

Limitations of Breast Ultrasound

As good as ultrasound may seem, it is not 100% effective in all cases. Ultrasound is not a substitute for a mammogram or a physical examination by a qualified doctor. This is because some anomalies can only be seen through a mammography. Also sometimes an ultrasound test may be unable to determine if a tumor is malignant, in which case biopsy (taking a sample of the tissue) would be necessary.

Before you have an ultrasound test, make sure the hospital is duly equipped and meets the standard qualifications for it. You can check the ACR database for certified facilities. You might also want to verify if the test is covered by your insurance.

Breast Cancer From Bras?

An Internet search on bras and their relationship with breast cancer reveals a very unusual result. Despite enough specialistic studies and hard proof that establishes the causality between wearing bras and the cancer condition, the two seem tightly linked with most sources pointing to a book named Dressed to Kill by Singer and Grismaijer.

Bras do not cause it themselves, but wearing sizes that are too tight may help cancer growth and the reason for that is tight fitting bras can prevent women’s bodies from excreting toxic and dangerous carcinogenic chemicals. Statistics show that eighty percent of women wear the wrong-sized bra.

The tight bras restrict lymph flow in the breasts. There are several nodes and pathways in the arm pits and in between the breasts. The task of the lymph nodes is to flush out waste materials and toxic material away from the breasts. In theory, tight fitting bras restrict this same flow thereby causing toxins to accumulate in the breast area and may help cancer to develop. Toxic materials include DDT, dioxin, and benzene all of which cling to fatty human tissue such as the breast.

The book does present some startling statistics:

  • 75% of women who wore bras everyday for 24 hours developed breast cancer
  • 14% of women wearing bras more than 12 hours per day (not in bed) developed breast cancer
  • 0.6% of women who wore bras for less than 12 hours a day developed the cancer

It is very important to note here that the numbers may explain a relationship between wearing bras for a long period of time and breast cancer but they do not necessarily prove a causal relationship between the two. More research needs to be done on lymphatic system and breast cancer to illuminate this issue.

Warning! What Looks Like Eczema or Psoriasis on the Breast Could Be Paget’s Disease – Breast Cancer

The rare breast cancer disease – Paget’s disease (Paget’s disease of the nipple or Mammary Paget’s disease) is often confused with the two common skin conditions eczema and psoriasis. All which are very similar, and which often force doctors to send their patients to specialists for correct diagnosis.

However, there are certain detectable differences between both Paget’s disease and other skin conditions that many women can look for when self-checking the breasts for cancer. Usually common skin conditions that affect the breasts are nothing to be worried about; however, with Paget’s disease, it is different.

1. Eczema – is a relatively common skin complain; although, it is considered a chronic inflammatory condition of the skin that consists of dry skin with red patches, together with an often itchy sensation that tends to provoke the condition to become worse when scratched (eczema rarely affects the nipple).

2. Psoriasis – is similar to eczema, but with patches of raised skin that are usually red in color, together with thick silvery scales (often considered a more hereditary disease [one in every two psoriasis cases is usually hereditary]) that appears on the skin (doctors are still unable to explain what causes it).

3. Paget’s disease – can affect both men and women (men in more extreme cases), and is considered a rather deadly form of cancer. Not only is the disease dangerous in itself, but 50% of women who suffer from it are also diagnosed with having one or more breast tumors (ductal carcinoma in-situ, or invasive breast cancer [stages I – III]) within the same breast where the disease is present.

Symptoms – are usually in the form of a red scaly rash that affects the nipple (an extension to the areola [the dark skin circle around the nipple] may often be present too) that may itch or burn. With Paget’s disease – malignant cells are usually present in the epidermis (the surface layer of skin) of both the areola, and the nipple (malignant cells may be found either singularly or formed in small groups).

Also an inverted nipple (pulled inwards) together with a nipple discharge are both common signs that a rash is more than just a common skin complaint. However, in comparison with the disease and more common skin complaints, it usually only affects one breast (most skin complains affect the two breasts).

The three main dangers of Paget’s disease are as follows:

1. Is because Paget’s disease is so similar to both eczema and psoriasis; it may well get mis-diagnosed.

2. It is because of the presence of malignant (cancerous) cells.

3. Around 50% of women sufferers may also be diagnosed with tumors of the breast.

Note: All three of these dangers may result in either a woman losing a breast, or becoming just another statistic of breast cancer fatality. Regular self-checks are seen prudent for early diagnosis of breast cancer. Any doubt (even minor) over anything unusual found: within, on, or around (the nipple area) the breast, being put to rest by an early consultation with either a doctor or health adviser.