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.

Stages Of Early Breast Cancer And The Chance of Its Coming Back

A cancer that develops in the breast is known as breast cancer. The ailment can be fatal if it had advanced and is not treated. Early detection can be treated successfully such that the affected person’s survival rate is higher. The progress of the disease can be determined through two factors – grade and stage.

Grades of breast cancer

The grade indicates how fast the cancer cells are multiplying. This can range from Grade 1 to Grade 3. A low-grade such as Grade 1 indicates that the cancer growth is slow. On the other hand, a high-grade such as Grade 3 shows the fast spread and growth of the cancer cells. The higher is the grade, the more active the disease is. This can result to the spread of the ailment outside of the breast and into the lymph nodes and armpit.

Stages of breast cancer

When cancer of the breast is suspected, you may be required to undergo ultrasound, mammogram, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and biopsies. The pathology report which is based on the biopsies will summarize the stages of breast cancer. Stages of breast cancer are given numbers I to IV. Stages I, II-A and II-B (lump measuring 2 to 5 centimeters) are classified as early stage. Stage II-B (lump is greater than 5 centimeters), III and IV are advanced stages.

The classification of early stage is based on two factors. First basis is the size of the cancerous lump. The second is the presence of cancer in the lymph nodes. When the lump is less than 2 centimeters and without cancer in the lymph node, it is Stage I.

There are three scenarios for Stage II-A.

First, the lump size is less than 2 centimeters with cancer in the lymph nodes.

Second, the size of the lump ranges from 2 to 5 centimeters without cancer in the lymph nodes.

Third, there is no cancer in the breast but the lymph nodes are positive for cancer.

For Stage II-B, the size of the lump ranges from 2 to 5 centimeters and there is cancer in the lymph nodes. When the size of the lump exceeds 5 centimeters, it will no longer be early stage, rather advanced stage.

There are several features that indicate the chance of early breast cancer recurrence. These are size of the lump, presence of cancer in the lymph nodes, presence of hormone receptors, HER 2 receptors, grade and surgical margin.

The disease has a slim chance of coming back

1. There is a big chance that when treated, the disease will not spread or come back. This is when the tumor is smaller than 2 centimeters.

2. Absence of cancer cells in the lymph nodes.

3. The tumor cells have hormone receptors and you undergo hormonal therapy.

4. Cancer cells are negative for human epidermal growth factor receptor (HER 2).

5. The grade is low.

6. The surgical margin is clear.

The surgical margin is the healthy-looking tissues around the cancer. If there are no cancer cells in these healthy-looking tissues, the surgical margin is clear.

Th Big C is likely to recur

1. The lump is larger than 2 centimeters.

2. Presence of tumor cells in the lymph nodes.

3. The cancer cells do not have hormone receptors.

4. The cancer cells are positive for human epidermal growth factor receptor (HER 2).

5. The grade is high (Grade 3).

6. The surgical margin is not clear.

Early breast cancer is treatable. Although this is a common ailment for women, it will also affect men. Early detection is paramount in surviving this dreaded disease.