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Golden State Cancer Centers - Cancer Radiation Therapy & Treatment | Serving West Hills - Woodland Hills - Los Angeles & Ventura County

21300 Erwin Street
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
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How Do I Know If I Have Breast Cancer?

The size of the breast cancer tumor and how far it has spread are the best indicators for survival. Therefore, early detection is important. Because breast tumors are often painless, the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends the following for women without symptoms:

  • Breast self-exams beginning in their 20s
  • Clinical breast exam at least every three years for women in their 20s and 30s
    and annually for women over 40
  • Annual mammogram for women over age 40

If breast cancer does cause symptoms, they can include:

  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Breast pain
  • Nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
  • Redness, scaliness, discoloration or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk
  • A lump in the underarm area
  • Swelling, redness and warmth, which may indicate inflammatory breast cancer

There are several tests physicians can use to further the diagnostic process and look for breast cancer. These include diagnostic mammogram, MRI, breast ultrasound or ductogram, which is a special X-ray that is helpful in determining the cause of nipple discharge.

As with other cancers, the only way to know for sure is with a biopsy—a procedure in which a sample of the tumor is sent to the lab to be examined under a microscope. With a needle biopsy, a needle is used to remove a small amount of fluid and tissue from the suspect area.

Sentinel-Node Biopsy

Lymph nodes are olive-shaped glands that can carry cancer from one part of the body to another. The first node to which cancer spreads is called the “sentinel node.” In breast cancer, the sentinel node is usually one that is under the arm. Removing the sentinel node during a biopsy can provide physicians with better information for diagnosing and treatment planning, and can potentially reduce the amount of surgery needed.