What tests might be needed about Breast ? ~ Health Guide

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What tests might be needed about Breast ?

Written by Mystic on Monday, August 04, 2008

When you go to your doctor to get a problem checked out, she/he will first examine your breasts both by feeling them and looking at them. If you have noticed a specific change such as a lump, try to pinpoint the area clearly. This will assist your doctor with the examination.

Your doctor may then advise you to have some tests so that a definite diagnosis can be made to make sure that your problem is benign (not cancerous). These tests may include one or more of the following:


A mammogram is a special X-ray of the breast which uses low doses of radiation.

Diagnostic Mammograms:

If you have a lump or other breast problem, a diagnostic mammogram is often suggested to help with the diagnosis. The mammogram checks the lump's presence and position and checks for any other problems in your breasts. Sometimes a lump that can be felt is not seen on a mammogram. Other tests are necessary to determine whether or not the lump is malignant (a cancer) or benign (not a cancer).

Screening Mammograms:

Mammograms may also be suggested to check healthy women who have no symptoms. This is because screening mammograms can detect early signs of a cancer before the woman herself is aware of any changes in her breasts.

The Cancer Council Australia recommends regular mammograms for women aged 50 and over. Studies have shown that with high quality programs, 2 yearly mammograms can decrease the risk of dying from breast cancer by about 30% in women aged 50-69. In this state, free screening mammograms are available at BreastScreen SA.

For more information about the program or for a range of brochures on breast cancer screening, contact BreastScreen SA on 13 20 50 [cost of a local call].


Another test you may have is an ultrasound. This test uses high-frequency sound waves to scan your breasts. The vibrations from these sound waves are reflected off your breast tissue and transformed into electrical signals that show up as an image on a screen (like a television). Ultrasound does not use radiation.

The scanning is done by a radiographer who moves a probe (looking something like a microphone) across your breast.


This could be a fine needle aspiration, a core biopsy or surgical biopsy. With a fine needle aspiration, a thin needle is put into the lump in your breast and a small sample of cells is collected. The cells are sent to the pathology lab to be tested for cancer. A core biopsy is similar to a fine needle aspiration but uses a larger needle to remove a small amount of breast tissue. This is done using a local anaesthetic. The tissue taken is examined by an experienced pathologist. A surgical biopsy is done under a general anaesthetic. More tissue is taken than in a core biopsy.
If you are at all unsure about how the biopsy will be done, ask the surgeon to explain what is involved. You may want to ask about the size and position of the scar, whether you will feel any pain or discomfort and how long you will need to be off work.

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