Can Breast Cancer be Misdiagnosed?

Can breast cancer be misdiagnosed?

Over the past few decades, medical professionals have significantly improved their ability to diagnose and treat breast cancer. As long as you do a self-examination about once a month and start annual mammograms at age 45, you and your medical care team should be able to detect any possible cancer long before it becomes life-threatening. Unfortunately, when it comes to distinguishing whether or not a lump is cancerous, we are still working within an imperfect system. So can breast cancer be misdiagnosed?

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Being Diagnosed: Can Breast Cancer Be Misdiagnosed?

If your initial mammogram reveals the presence of a lump, then your doctor will want to proceed with further diagnostic testing. They may do a second mammogram to get a better look at the suspected lump. Sometimes the presence of the lump still can’t be explained. In this case, your doctor will want to move forward to more invasive testing. This is the biopsy.

To do a biopsy, your doctor will need to remove a small piece of tissue from the lump. It’s a small operation where a specialist will make a small incision in the breast and then insert a needle to pull out the sample. The sample is then preserved and processed so that a highly-trained pathologist can study it under a microscope.

During their examination, the pathologist will use a dye to more carefully observe the physical attributes of the sample to help determine if the lump in your breast is cancerous. However, telling the difference between cancerous and non-cancerous tissue isn’t as easy as it seems. Even trained specialists with years of experience sometimes disagree as to whether a specific sample needs to be treated as cancer. Unfortunately, a misdiagnosis at this stage could make all the difference for you.

Can Breast Cancer Be Misdiagnosed? Getting a Second Opinion

Regardless of the cancer, you should always try to get a breast cancer second opinion Houston. Whether before going through surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. It is as simple as having the lab send your samples to a lab that specializes in the type of cancer you may have. There may be excellent pathologists in the first lab. But if breast cancer isn’t something they review every, single day, then they are more likely to misdiagnose. All cancers present in slightly different ways. So you will have the best chance of an accurate diagnosis if you request to send samples to a specialized lab.

At Breast Health Institute Houston, Dr. Miltenburg wants to ensure that you don’t have to go through the emotional strain of a misdiagnosis. That is where the second opinion/breast tumor conference comes into play. With years of specialized training focused on identifying and treating breast cancer, they will be able to look at your biopsy with eyes trained to look at breast tissue and identify cancerous growths in that region of the body.

From there, Dr. Miltenburg can discuss treatment options. These may be in line with your initial doctor’s recommendations, but they may not be. If Dr. Miltenburg suggests a different course, then it is important to have a candid conversation with both of your doctors. Ask for the rationale behind their plan of action. And ask for a third opinion from another qualified professional if you find yourself torn between differing opinions.

Feeling Safe in Your Diagnosis

There is no way to make a cancer diagnosis feel good. It’s frightening and life changing. If you are about to put yourself through surgery and treatment, then you should know that it’s necessary. Getting a second opinion and putting your trust in those who specialize in breast cancer will allow you to at least feel confident that you are taking the right steps towards recovery.

When to Get a Mammogram

Knowing when to get a mammogram is vital

Considering our mortality is an exercise that most of us would prefer to avoid. As a result, undergoing regular, preventative care can be a stressful practice, but it is also necessary if we want to enjoy more time on this earth. Mammograms are no exception. Knowing when to get a mammogram is essential to your health.

In a lot of cases, people think of mammograms as something reserved for older women. Historically this was the case. Women would often wait until they were in their 50s or 60s to get their first mammogram, but the perceived increase in breast cancer cases in younger women is changing that perception.

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Shifting the Bar

A recent report out of Yale states that about 11% of breast cancer patients are under the age of 45. It may not seem like a lot, but it means that younger women should certainly be paying attention to their breast health before entering menopause. According to the same report, the Center for Disease Control estimates that 26,393 women under 45 will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.

In response to growing awareness of this issue, many health care providers suggest that all women begin receiving annual mammograms at the age of 45. The American Cancer Association makes this recommendation with the caveat that women with genetic risk factors should be given the option to undergo annual mammograms starting at the age of 40.

Prior to age 40, women are still considered to be in a low-risk category. However, you should undoubtedly continue regular breast examinations. It may seem like a troublesome exercise, but women are being diagnosed with breast cancer as early as their twenties. Performing regular self-examinations allows you to create a baseline.

To recognize an abnormality in its earliest stages, you have to have a sense of their normal topography. By performing regular self-exams, the somewhat lumpy tissue that makes up the lactation system of the breast will become more recognizable, allowing you to discern when something doesn’t feel quite right.

Performing a Self-Examination

The National Breast Cancer Foundation suggests that all women should perform a self-examination once per month, as 40% of all breast cancer cases are initially discovered by the patient.

There are three distinct steps to a complete self-examination.

Visual Exam

In some cases, lumps caused by breast cancer are visible. During your self-examination, you should stand in front of a mirror. First, check for any inconsistencies in the curvature of your breasts. Make sure to check up to the collar-bone, underneath the breast, underneath the armpit, and the breast tissue that continues to wrap around to your back.

Standing Upright

To check for lumps by touch, take the three fingers of your dominant hand and use their flattened pads to scan your breast. To ensure a full exam, start on one side and press lightly onto the skin as you run your fingers in a vertical path down. Continue to move across the breast and make a vertical pass with your fingers each time.

This approach may feel weird to you, given the shape of breasts. However, using the vertical scanning method allows a level of consistency that will improve your ability to recognize something out of the ordinary. Also, it prevents the possibility of missing part of your breast.

As with the visual test, make sure you start at the collar-bone and continue your vertical sweep to the very bottom of the breast. You also want to make sure you check the tissue under your armpit and around to your back where your bra-strap would normally be located.

Laying Down

The last part of your self-examination makes it a little easier, especially if you have larger breasts. By laying down, you allow the bulk of your breast tissue to naturally flatten a bit. For comfort, place a pillow under the shoulder of the breast you’re going to check and put the arm behind your head. Follow the same technique as when you were standing.

If You Find a Lump

If you feel something out of the ordinary, then you’ll want to make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will likely perform a physical examination. They’ll follow up with scheduling when to get a mammogram if something feels out of the ordinary.

For your mammogram, the American Cancer Society suggests wearing a skirt or pants for your own comfort during the exam. Additionally, they warn that you should avoid wearing antiperspirant or deodorant, which can obscure your results.

During the exam, the technician will have to physically place your breasts to ensure a good image. You should inform the office when you make an appointment if you would prefer a female technician. It is important to us that you feel comfortable during the exam.

The process does require flattening your breasts to achieve the required images. Fortunately, this only lasts a few seconds per image, and your technician will do their best to ensure your comfort.

Preparing for News

Knowing when to get a mammogram is essential to early detection and treatment. If your mammogram reveals a potentially cancerous mass, then it is time to start planning for your future. At Breast Health Institute Houston, Dr. Miltenburg specializes in giving breast cancer patients the care and support they need. We provide a range of breast tumor treatment options. Contact our office for an initial consultation to get all of your questions answered and to start building the medical support network you may need in the coming months.

How to Read Your Mammogram

breast mammogram in houston

Getting routine breast exams is an important task for women that is often swept to the way-side. Many people avoid going to a doctors office altogether because they’re scared of receiving bad news. However, mammograms are extremely important because they help detect breast cancer early on. Reading a mammogram is difficult and always best explained by a radiologist or your doctor. It’s important to know what you are looking for and what it may mean for your health. Here’s a better look at how you can better read your own mammogram in Houston.

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