What If You Have Early
If you have early-stage breast cancer but no symptoms to suggest the cancer has spread, you should not get an imaging test to look for cancer in other places in your body. The chance that your cancer has spread is very small. Studies show that breast cancer spreads to the liver and bones in fewer than 6 out of 100 people. And this is usually in patients with stage III breast cancer.
How Is Breast Cancer Diagnosed
Magnetic resonance imaging may be used to diagnose breast cancer.
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. These doctors are experts in diagnosing breast problems.
- 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 . 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 .
Read Also: Can Breast Cancer Be Cured
What Happens If Any Of These Tests Are Positive Or Indicate Possible Ovarian Cancer
It is recommended that you should see a gynecologist, specifically a gynecologic oncologist immediately. The gynecologic oncologist is a gynecologist who is also a cancer specialist.
Remember, although it may sometimes be difficult to find in its early stages, you can do so. You must know the symptoms of ovarian cancer and listen to your body. Your awareness is the first test against this disease.
Recommended Reading: Does Breast Hurt With Cancer
You May Like: What Types Of Breast Cancer Are Hereditary
How To Prepare And What To Expect During The Test
There is no special preparation necessary for a BRCA gene test. You can eat and drink normally before the test.
During the test, a healthcare professional will insert a needle into a vein in your arm to draw the blood sample needed for testing. You may feel a pinch or stinging sensation when the needle is inserted and the blood is withdrawn. The test only takes a few minutes, and you can go about your normal activities afterward.
The sample is then sent to a lab for further analysis. Your doctor or a genetic counselor will go over the results with you when they are available, usually within a few weeks.
What Types Of Blood Tests Can Help Detect Cancer
Tumor marker tests
Tumor markers are chemicals produced by cancer cells and found in the blood. However, tumor markers are also made by normal cells in the body, and levels may increase significantly in noncancerous conditions. Examples of tumor markers include:
- Carcinoembryonic antigen for colon cancers
- Human epididymis protein 4 and inhibin for ovarian cancer
Circulating tumor cell tests
Recently developed blood tests can detect tumor cells that have separated from an original cancer site and are flowing through the bloodstream. The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved one circulating tumor cell test to monitor people with breast, colorectal or prostate cancer. However, these tests are not commonly used in a clinical setting.
Blood protein testing
Electrophoresis is a test that examines various proteins in the blood. This can help identify various immunoglobulins, which are elevated in people with multiple myeloma. A bone marrow biopsy may help confirm the diagnosis of blood cancer.
Complete blood count
A complete blood count helps the doctor to:
- Diagnose some blood cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma.
- Find out if cancer has invaded the bone marrow.
- Look how a persons body handles cancer treatment.
- Diagnose other noncancerous conditions.
The results of CBC are interpreted as:
Read Also: Ac Taxol Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer
Whats Happening With The Latest Research On Breast Cancer
According to the Mayo Clinic, two new areas of ongoing cancer research are genomics and proteomics:
- Genomics the study of the human genome, or all 25,000 genes typically found in a human being. Identifying and targeting the specific genes that can result in breast cancer will help with both diagnosis and treatment that can be directed at the particular, mutated gene.
- Proteomics the study of human proteins. Proteins are the active players that carry out a cells activities. Only a small number of the millions of different proteins have currently been identified. The goal: to understand and diagram the signaling pathways controlling cell growth and activity.
In drug therapies, researchers are learning that some tumors are becoming resistant to current prescribed drugs. At present, Herceptin and Tykerb tackle about 30 percent of breast cancers containing a protein called HER2. Pfizer is looking at different forms of drugs that can reach multiple forms of the protein, making resistance to the drug less likely.
There are numerous resources available on breast cancer, including those found at the Mayo Clinic. For clinical trials, visit for coping, visit the Cancer Hope Network and for specific information on breast cancer go to www.breastcancer.org.
Biology Meets Machine Learning
The test works using a type of DNA released by tumor cells. This sheds into the blood, where it is known as cell-free DNA . It can be challenging to identify tumor-specific cfDNA, however, because many other cells also release DNA into the blood.
This test detects DNA that is specifically from cancer cells using changes to the DNA namely, the addition of a chemical called a methyl group, which is associated with tumor growth.
After isolating cfDNA from the blood sample and sequencing it to find the methylated parts, healthcare professionals can feed the results into a computer that can recognize DNA from cancer and noncancer cells.
The computer can then predict whether or not a person has cancer, and even what type it might be.
If your physician suspects cancer during physical examination or while taking a medical history, they might order certain cancer blood tests to guide the diagnosis. These blood tests are called tumor markers. Tumor markers could be specifically raised in certain cancers, and may give some idea about the origin of cancer and whether it is responding to the treatment protocol. These tests, however, are neither specific for certain cancers nor highly sensitive.
Other blood tests could be ordered. While these may not detect cancer or benign tumors, they can give a general idea about the functioning of the organ and indicate whether it has been affected by cancer.
Recommended Reading: Who Is At High Risk For Breast Cancer
What Are Some Measures I Can Take To Avoid Breast Cancer Or Minimize The Disease
Most experts agree that screening is the best way to catch breast cancer in its early stages. It doesnt prevent cancer but it can lead to quick detection and a better outcome. There is still some debate about when or whether to get screened for breast cancer, stemming from a study that showed more deaths from breast cancer occurred in younger women who didnt get regular mammograms. Arguments arose about false positives and over-treatment. In addition, different surveys can lead to different answers, so the best advice is to consult with your healthcare provider about your individual situation and relevant risk factors. An annual mammogram for women over 40 is still a good guide. The CA 27.29 is a blood test, a tumor marker, specific for screening for breast cancer. Other ways to boost your chances of not getting breast cancer and improve your overall health:
Blood Tests Have Come A Long Way
Historically, blood tests havent been the best way to detect cancer.
Even blood tests on people with blood cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia were ironically not the most effective way of determining whether a person has cancer.
But blood-testing technologies are now changing the way the disease is diagnosed and treated.
GRAILs technology is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how genetics are revolutionizing cancer care.
In cancer biotech circles, the term blood test is out and the term liquid biopsy is in.
A liquid biopsy simply means an examination of cancer-related material from a blood sample.
Liquid biopsies havent yet replaced a tumor biopsy. But most people interviewed for this story agreed that liquid biopsies are showing great promise in facilitating individualized approaches to cancer treatment.
The Food and Drug Administration recently approved two blood tests that can help guide treatment decisions for people with cancer.
The tests, Guardant360 CDx and FoundationOne Liquid CDx, are made by different companies and were approved separately.
Oncologists have historically based treatment decisions on features like the organ in which the cancer started growing, whether the cancer has spread, and whether the patient has other health conditions.
Now they often use genetic changes in the tumor, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Certain targeted therapies and immunotherapies work best against tumors that have specific genetic changes.
Don’t Miss: What Are The Side Effects Of Breast Cancer
Testing The Tumor Cells For Hormone Receptors
A hormone receptor is a specialized protein located on the surface of or within a cell. The receptor binds to the female hormones estrogen and progesterone, which flow through the blood. Once bound, the hormone signals the cell to start growing and multiplying.
Many breast cancer tumors contain hormone receptors, often in large numbers. When hormone receptors are present, estrogen and/or progesterone can fuel the growth of the cancer. Such hormone-dependent cancers often respond well to hormone therapy, which differs from hormone replacement therapy . If neither estrogen receptors nor progesterone receptors are present, the cancer is said to be hormone-receptor-negative, and hormone therapy would likely be ineffective. Knowing whether the cancer cells have hormone receptors can be valuable to your medical team and your treatment plan.
What If You Have Already Had Breast Cancer
If you had early-stage breast cancer and have no signs that your cancer has returned, you may not need imaging or tumor marker tests. It is not likely that your cancer has returned. These tests usually do not help you live longer. And they can lead to a wrong diagnosis and unneeded treatments.
Usually, the best way to monitor your cancer is to have a mammogram each year and a physical exam every six months. And watch for symptoms, such as a new lump or pain in the breast. Studies show that most breast cancer that returns is found through symptoms, not imaging tests.
You May Like: Is Stage 2 Breast Cancer Considered Early Stage
What Are The Characteristics Of Breast Cancer
Each breast cancer will have its own characteristics. Some are slow-growing others can be aggressive. Some are sensitive to the hormones estrogen and progesterone, while others produce very high levels of certain proteins that make them grow. The cancers characteristics can affect treatment choices and the potential for the cancer to recur.
What Are The Different Types Of Breast Cancer And Its Different Stages
In breast cancer, knowing where the tumor is located, its size, type and stage, are extremely important in understanding treatment and outcome. Types of breast cancer are categorized depending upon how they look under the microscope. Some may also be combinations of different types. For details visit the National Cancer Institute or the American Cancer Society.
As a general guideline, breast cancer is categorized as:
- Ductal carcinoma in situ refers to abnormal cells found that havent invaded surrounding tissue.
- Lobular carcinoma in situ abnormal cells contained within a lobule of the breast but havent invaded surrounding tissue.
- Invasive ductal carcinoma also known as infiltrating and capable of traveling to other parts of the body. About 70 percent of invasive breast cancers are this type.
- Invasive lobular carcinoma less common than IDC starts in milk-producing lobule and invades surrounding tissue.
Like many cancers, breast cancer is divided into stages:
- Stage O localized hasnt yet spread.
- Stage I – an early stage of invasive breast cancer has not spread beyond the breast.
- Stage II tumor can vary in size and has spread to the lymph nodes but is still contained within a certain region.
- Stage III a locally advanced cancer tumor may be large.
- Stage IV metastatic cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
You May Like: What Is The Recovery Time For Breast Cancer Surgery
Stage Of Breast Cancer
When breast cancer is diagnosed, your doctors will give it a stage. The stage describes the size of the cancer and how far it has spread, and is used to predict the outlook.
Ductal carcinoma in situ is sometimes described as stage 0. Other stages of breast cancer describe invasive breast cancer and include:
- stage 1 the tumour measures less than 2cm and the lymph nodes in the armpit are not affected. There are no signs that the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body
- stage 2 the tumour measures 2 to 5cm, the lymph nodes in the armpit are affected, or both. There are no signs that the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body
- stage 3 the tumour measures 2 to 5cm and may be attached to structures in the breast, such as skin or surrounding tissues, and the lymph nodes in the armpit are affected. There are no signs that the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body
- stage 4 the tumour is of any size and the cancer has spread to other parts of the body
This is a simplified guide. Each stage is divided into further categories: A, B and C. If youre not sure what stage you have, talk to your doctor.
What Is Cancer And How Does It Occur
Cancer is actually a group of diseases that begin in the bodys basic units of life the cells. There are trillions of cells in the human body that combine to form skin, muscle, bone, breast and blood. In normal cell behavior, cells grow and divide to produce more cells as needed. After a limited number of divisions, the cell is programmed to die, replaced by new, younger cells. What happens, however, when cancer develops, is a loss of control in normal cell growth. In simple terms, cancer is the overgrowth of abnormal cells. Over time, these abnormal cells form a mass of tissue a growth or a tumor that invades and destroys normal tissue. These abnormal cells can also spread throughout the body, resulting in metastatic cancer.
Research continues on the many causes of cancer, a complex disease that develops as a step-by-step process before it becomes lethal. What researchers know for certain is that while exact causes of many cancers are not yet known, both external and internal factors play a role in cancer developing, including genetics, aging, lifestyle choices, exposure to carcinogens and infections.
Recommended Reading: How To Cope With Breast Cancer
How To Get Brca Genetic Testing
Genetic counseling is recommended for those who are interested in being tested for breast cancer gene mutations. You can talk to a doctor about getting a referral to a genetic counselor, who can help determine whether genetic testing would make sense based on family history and risk factors. Since many genetic tests only look for one specific gene mutation, the counselor can often help determine which mutations to test for.
The genetic test itself simply involves taking a small sample of blood or saliva, which is sent to a lab for analysis. Results can take several weeks or months.
Genetic testing results are not always clear-cut:
- A test result can be positive, meaning that the patient does carry the gene mutation.
- A negative test result indicates that they do not have that particular known gene mutation. It does not, however, rule out the possibility of having mutations in other genes. It also does not rule out the possibility of developing breast cancer. Most breast cancer cases are not hereditary, so everyone should still have an early detection plan.
- Genetic test results can also be uncertain or ambiguous. An ambiguous test result means that a mutation has been found on the gene, but it is not yet known whether that particular mutation has any effect on the chances of developing breast cancer.
- Someone is either negative or positive. Over time, a person cannot go from being negative to being positive or vice versa for the specific gene mutations they were tested for.
Circulating Tumor Cell Test
Cellsearch circulating tumor cell tests may be used to monitor metastatic breast, colorectal and prostate cancers. This diagnostic test helps capture, identify and count circulating tumor cells in a blood sample. CTCs are cancer cells that detach from solid tumors and enter the bloodstream. This cancer blood test may be performed prior to the start of therapy or during the course of treatment.
The Videssa Breast Solution
Videssa Breast is the first blood test of its kind to detect the presence or absence of breast cancer in women with abnormal or difficult-to-interpret mammographic findings. When used in combination with imaging, Videssa Breast can improve diagnostic accuracy and provide greater confidence and clarity when clinical assessment is challenging. Videssa Breast offers clarity for healthcare providers who must navigate complex decisions in women who present with difficult-to-interpret findings.