Your First Appointment
There are several diagnostic tools that Erick may recommend to you, to gather information about your breast lump. These might include some or all of an ultra-sound, a mammogram, tomosynthesis, a biopsy or an MRI.
Of all the tests, this is the least intrusive. It doesn’t hurt and it doesn’t take long.
If you have had a baby it is likely that you’ll have ultra-sounds before and the procedure is similar for your breast. A technician will squirt gel onto a probe and perhaps onto your skin (it can feel a bit cold), the gel is to ensure good contact between the probe and your skin. The probe will collect images of the inside of your breast using sound waves. It’s possible that a doctor may be called in to check your images.
A mammogram uses low-dose x-rays that can see inside your breasts and are helpful in identifying cancers. During your mammogram a technician will place your breast onto a glass plate, and then compress it so that the machine has the best chance of picking up any abnormalities. This may need to be done more than once to capture different images.
Unfortunately some women to find the compression uncomfortable, particularly if their breasts are large or particularly firm, but it is over fast, and the information provided can be invaluable. So take a deep breath. It’s worth it.
Another kind of test that might be recommended for you is breast tomosynthesis, also called 3D mammography. It’s a bit like having a mammogram, but it isn’t usually necessary to compress the breast to the same extent, so the physical discomfort is less. It allows us to create 3D images of the breast and can identify cancers that aren’t visible on a mammogram.
Imaging tells us that there is a lump, but it can’t tell us what it’s made of. Erick will recommend a core biopsy if the previous results are inconclusive, or if imaging suggests that cancer may be present. It’s the most definitive way we have of identifying (or ruling out) cancer, and diagnosing the type of cancer you may be facing.
Unfortunately, this procedure can be a bit painful. It’s a good idea to take two paracetamol an hour or so before your appointment (not aspirin or nurofen which can worsen bleeding). Also, if possible, get someone to drive you to and from your appointment, as it may be uncomfortable to drive afterwards.
During the procedure, a local anaesthetic is injected into the skin of the breast before a small incision is made. A thin tube is then inserted into the breast-lump and a small amount of tissue is captured for examination. It’s possible that more than one sample will be needed. The instrument used makes a loud noise, a bit like a nail-gun, which can be a bit startling.
It’s not uncommon for the procedure to cause bruising to the breast.
Like other tests, results can take a few days to come through, and your next appointment will be booked at the same time as your biopsy appointment.
If cancer cells are detected in your biopsy, it is possible that Erick will refer you to have an MRI. An MRI is the most sensitive tool that we have and will provide detailed information on the size and extent of your cancer.
The procedure itself is painless and relatively straightforward. You will lie face-down on a bed which has a space for your breasts. The bed then moves into the middle of a donut-shaped machine. The machine will then move around you making all sorts of strange and loud noises as it captures images.
If you are claustrophobic, do let the technician know in advance.
11 Khartoum Road
Strathfield Private Hospital
3 Everton Rd,
Strathfield NSW 2135
Hours: 9am - 5pm