Do you have a lump on your breast? Do you bleed from your breast or is there any instance of abnormal secretions from the breast (secretions other than milk secreted by nursing or post-nursing mothers, and secretions when the breast is not in a stimulated state) ? Is there any change in the size, orientation, or shape of your nipple?
Does your breast not look round but pulled inwards (this is also known as dimpling or puckering of the breast), has the skin on your breast become crusty or scaly? Most importantly, is your breast red and swollen? Does it pain in the breast and its surrounding areas? Has one breast become unnaturally larger than the other? One or more of these symptoms are a valid reason for breast biopsy and you should get in touch with your medical practitioner as soon as possible regarding the same.
But do not get worried as breast biopsy( a clinical procedure which involves removal of tissue samples from your breasts and testing them in the laboratory ) is done for detecting a number of medical conditions in you, not only breast cancer, as it is commonly feared to be. Many people who undergo breast biopsy end up suffering from some benign tumor or non-cancerous condition.
Mastitis( breast infection), fat necrosis( a lump formed by injury), and duct ectasia( a condition with discharge, redness and lump in the breast) are some non-cancerous conditions which need to be confirmed by a breast biopsy. So remain calm and go ahead with the biopsy if your doctor has suggested the medical procedure for you.
Do Men Need Breast Biopsy?
Contrary to common belief, it is not only women who stand a risk of breast cancer or any other abnormal breast condition. Even men can suffer from it and the above symptoms, especially a lump in the breast, hold true even for them. However, occurrence of breast cancer is rare in men.
Men with a genetic history of breast cancer or those suffering from Klinefelter syndrome (which results in greater than normal breast-size in them), gynecomastia( abnormal increase in breast size due to hormonal treatment, medicines, infection or poisoning), liver disorders and certain testicular conditions stand the risk of developing breast cancer and most probably need a breast biopsy to establish the disease he is suffering from.
Preliminary Tests Which May Prove to be Reasons for Breast Biopsy
Self Screening (Breast Self Examination (BCE))
This is first test that you will be doing for detecting any abnormality as discussed in the symptoms above. Periodically watch your breasts for any of these symptoms. This should be followed by clinical examination in case your self screening proves correct.
Clinical Preliminary Tests
A good doctor will always ask you to undergo certain preliminary tests such as a mammography (an X-ray technique resulting in subjecting the patient to low energy X-rays to detect abnormal growth). Rather, the American Cancer Society advises all women over forty years to get a mammography done as a part of a preventive measure for breast cancer as compatible symptoms may be recognized by the procedure much before it is sensed by the doctor or the patient.
A sonogram (ultrasound) is the next preliminary procedure which your doctor might suggest to detect some anomalies which have remained undetected by mammography such as a fluid-filled cyst or an alternative image of the breast. Detection of malignant cysts will elicit a positive response in your doctor for a breast biopsy as the next step of problem identification. A sonogram is also done along with a mammography for gathering further details of the health status of the breast.
MRI( Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is a type of scanning done on the human body to detect medical conditions. It is used to detect lymph node enlargement and also some tumors which are not detected by a mammography. This technique is used in conjunction with a mammography.
Detection of malignancy or potential malignancy in any of these preliminary tests becomes a strong reason for breast biopsy.
When is a Breast Biopsy Unnecessary?
Sometimes, physicians are so apprehensive of the incidence of impending doom that even a benign lesion makes them advise a breast biopsy to their patients. It is understood that they are being extra cautious, but a breast biopsy in such cases is quite unnecessary. Follow up mammography and close monitoring is what is required to be done in such cases to keep a track of the status of the lesion.
The American Journal of Roentgenology shows how only very few cases of breast cancer were detected in a follow up mammography of a group of patients. Group Health Research Institute’s researcher Erin Aiello Bowles feels that incidence of breast cancer is actually very low and a patient should not be made to undergo the process unnecessarily as it is invasive, expensive and most importantly causes anxiety in the patient. Breast biopsy also poses certain risks such as an infected or badly healed wound, bleeding, adverse reaction to anesthesia though these are not very common.
Elastography is an imaging technique that is used to detect cancerous and non-cancerous breast tissue. According to WebMD , the technique was applied on two hundred women. It detected 98 % cancerous and 78 % non-cancerous lesions in them. This technique is considered as a cost and anxiety saving alternative to breast biopsy by Stamatia V Destounis, MD., from Elizabeth Wende Breast Care, a New York based breast care center.
In essence, all women who are in their forties or older, should undergo routine mammography though there is no external evidence of any medical condition in the breast. Younger women should visit breast care specialists when they notice abnormalities in the structure or functioning of the breast.
Find a good breast care centre (by word of mouth or authentic internet reviews) to get the investigations done. Be wary of medical practitioners who suggest breast biopsy directly without suggesting the preliminary tests and those who suggest the procedure even when there is no reason for breast biopsy.