Breast cancer symptoms may not be present. A lump or thickened tissue in the breast or under the arm may be apparent. Other breast changes that may be symptomatic of breast cancer are: change in shape, size, colour or texture, dimpling, or nipple discharge. These changes may also be symptoms of benign disease.
How is breast cancer diagnosed?
Breast cancer is diagnosed by physicians by examination of breast changes or abnormal mammogram findings. A suspicious area may be further evaluated by additional x-rays. The size, texture, and mobility of a lump may be determined by physical examination. Ultrasonography is used with mammography to determine if the lump is solid or fluid-filled. Results from these tests may simply warrant future monitoring for changes. Sometimes fluid or tissue must be removed and biopsied for diagnosis. Aspiration or needle biopsy determines whether a tumour is fluid-filled (not cancerous) or solid (which may be cancerous or benign). Part of the entire lump is removed in a surgical biopsy and examined microscopically for cancer.
Upon diagnosis, pathologists determine the type of cancer and whether it has invaded tissues either within the breast or in lymph nodes or other organs. Hormone receptor tests indicate whether cancer will be sensitive to hormonal therapy. Postmenopausal women are more likely to have hormone-responsive tumours. Other laboratory tests can predict if the cancer is a rapidly growing type. Other laboratory tests can predict if the cancer is a rapidly growing type