What is Breast Cancer?
You would have to live under a rock or on a deserted island to not have someone you know whose life has been touched by breast cancer, and it’s estimated that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Breast cancer is the condition in which cells in the breast mutate and grow. When breast cancer spreads beyond the breast to areas like the lymph nodes or liver, it is said to have metastasized. It can start in any part of the breast – the milk glands (lobules), the milk ducts, or the fibrous and fatty connective tissue. There are many different types of breast cancer – some are slow growing and some are aggressive, they respond to different therapies and have different markers. Early detection can make an important difference with almost all variations of breast cancer.
What is a Mammogram?
We have all seen these on TV – the odd-looking contraption that squeezes your breasts into a pancake while the machine takes an x-ray with a loud, clunky click. While not the most attractive diagnostic x-ray, mammograms save lives every day with early detection. Once your breast has been pancaked between two firm surfaces to spread out the breast tissue, an X-ray captures black-and-white images of your breasts to be read by a radiologist and your doctor.
- Screening mammography. Screening mammography is used to detect breast changes in women who have no signs or symptoms or new breast abnormalities. The goal is to detect cancer before clinical signs are noticeable.
- Diagnostic mammography. Diagnostic mammography is used to investigate suspicious breast changes, such as a new breast lump, breast pain, an unusual skin appearance, nipple thickening or nipple discharge. It’s also used to evaluate abnormal findings on a screening mammogram. A diagnostic mammogram includes additional mammogram images.
Who should take this test?
Women between the ages of 50 – 74 should have a screening mammogram, or an x-ray of the breast, every two years because they are at the greatest risk. Women between the ages of 40 – 49 years old should talk to their doctor about when to start, and how often to get a mammogram. It is extremely important for women to get mammograms regularly, because taking precautionary measures can lower their risk of developing – and even dying from – breast cancer.
Consult your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms:
- New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit)
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast
- Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
- Any change in the size or the shape of the breast
- Pain in the breast
What are additional tests available to screen for breast cancer?
- Breast Cancer Screen– a blood test used to detect BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are genes linked to breast cancer; Mutations in these genes are associated with a greater risk for breast and ovarian cancer
- PET/CT Scan– a scan of the breast used to diagnose and locate tumors or abnormalities of the breast
- Breast MRI – typically ordered in conjunction with other breast exams (such as mammography and ultrasound) to screen women who are at a high risk for breast cancer
When will I receive my results?
Once completed, you will receive your results within 3-5 business days in your LabFinder portal.
How do I prepare? Do I need to fast?
No preparation or fasting required. Avoid using deodorants, antiperspirants, powders, lotions, creams or perfumes under your arms or on your breasts. Metallic particles in powders and deodorants could be visible on your mammogram and cause confusion.If you’ve had mammograms at another facility, try to bring those records with you to the new facility (or have them sent there) for comparison. If you booked and completed your last mammogram through LabFinder, your previous results will be in your secure dashboard. Make sure to bring your LabFinder Order and Insurance Card to your appointment.