Introduction to Diagnostic Testing

If a mass is found through a self-examination(SELF IG-ZAM-IN-A-SHUN) — Using your hands to feel for abnormal tissue in your breast, clinical examination(KLIN-EH-COAL IG-ZAM-IN-A-SHUN) — Medical professional feeling for abnormal tissue in the breast, screening mammogram(MAM-O-GRAM) — A screening test that uses x-rays to look for breast cancer, or screening MRIA loud banging machine that uses magnets to obtain pictures of the inside of the body; magnetic resonance imaging, more tests may be needed to determine if the mass is likely cancer. Your doctor needs to know if the mass is benign(BE-NINE) — A growth in the body that is neither invasive nor cancerous and has a very low risk of spreading, premalignant(PRE-MA-LIG-NENT) — A growth that will worsen and grow into a cancer, becoming malignant if not removed, or malignant(MA-LIG-NENT) — A cancer or abnormal tumor that grows uncontrollably and may spread to other parts of the body in order to make the most accurate recommendations for the next steps.

Here's your refresher on the different types breast cancer screening.

Diagnostic testing uses noninvasive(NON-IN-VAY-ZIV) — Something that does not penetrate or enter procedures to determine if more tests are needed. There are several ways doctors can do this. The three most common methods are diagnostic mammograms(DIE-AG-NAST-IK MAM-O-GRAMS) — Using a mammogram machine to obtain more in-depth testing of the breast when a mass or abnormality is suspected, diagnostic ultrasounds(DIE-AG-NAST-IK ALL-TRA-SOUNDS) — Using an ultrasound machine to obtain more in-depth testing of the breast when a mass or abnormality is suspected, and diagnostic MRIs(DIE-AG-NAST-IK M-R-IS) — Using a MRI machine to obtain much more in-depth testing of the breast when a mass or abnormality is suspected .

Diagnostic Mammogram

A diagnostic mammogram, or a more in-depth mammogram(MAM-O-GRAM) — A screening test that uses x-rays to look for breast cancer, is a follow-up examination after receiving abnormal results, or a “ call backThe call a patient receives following an abnormal initial screening mammogram, requesting the patient to come back in for additional testing,” from a screening mammogram. A radiology technician(RAY-DE-ALL-O-GEE TEK-NEH-SHUN) — A medical professional who performs the tests that obtains x-ray images will repeat the mammogram with different angles and compress the breast to get a better view.

Doctors usually start with a diagnostic mammogram because they want to take a closer look at the same suspicious tissue from different angles or levels of compression. Many times the tissue spotted on the original mammogram (that looked abnormal) will actually end up looking normal with additional views. It’s kind of like the original mammogram showed a “shadow.” But after a closer review, the doctor realizes the tissue is not a concern. If this is the case, no additional diagnostic tests are needed.

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Diagnostic Ultrasound

An ultrasound(ALL-TRA-SOUND) — An imaging technique that uses sound waves to differentiate types of tissue uses waves similar to radio waves to show the breast tissue differently than a mammogram or an MRIA loud banging machine that uses magnets to obtain pictures of the inside of the body; magnetic resonance imaging. An ultrasound is a very safe and easy technique commonly used to get a closer look at masses that were found through mammography(MAM-MAH-GROW-FEE) — A screening test that uses x-rays to look for breast cancer.

Another way to think about this is to imagine that you are listening to music at the pool. When you are above the water, the music sounds completely normal, but when you go under the water, the music becomes muffled. This is similar to what an ultrasound does.

An ultrasound is very good at differentiating a tumor(TOO-MER) — Abnormal growth in the body from normal tissue in the breast. Each type of tissue changes the sound waves. Depending on the type of tissue, the sound wave is clear or distorted, just like the sound waves change as you go under the water when you are listening to music.

The machine is able to “hear” and interpret the waves like a music equalizer. If the tissue is normal, the sound waves are very clear and pass through the tissue. But if the tissue is cancerous, the waves are blocked or muffled. These muffled sounds are then converted into a picture.

This procedure is most effective at diagnosing cancer when you know where to look. This is why ultrasounds are most commonly used if the doctor still isn’t sure if the tissue is abnormal after a diagnostic mammogram or when the doctor can actually feel the mass. If it turns out the tissue no longer seems worrisome after a closer look, no additional tests are needed.

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Diagnostic MRI

An MRI is commonly used in high-risk patients to find cancer when it is very small. Most women do not receive an MRI as a screening test. However, one may be recommended so the doctor can get an even better look at the breast after screening mammograms, diagnostic mammograms, or ultrasounds.

Diagnostic MRIs are performed on women when their doctor is worried there may be additional abnormalities. During an MRI, the contrast dye(CON-TRAST DIE) — A chemical injected into the body to highlight blood flow enhances the cancer(s) so they are easier to see. The dye also helps the doctor see if there are multiple tumors in the same breast, or if a second cancer is present in the other breast.

After a diagnostic mammogram, ultrasound, or an MRI, other invasive(IN-VAY-ZIV) — Something that penetrates or enters tests may be used to see if the mass is truly malignant (cancerous). If your doctor suspects that the mass may be malignant, they will suggest a biopsy to obtain a piece of tissue to analyze.

Be prepared for your diagnostic test results. Gain a better understanding the different tumors.

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