Diagnostics of breast cancer are critical in determining the treatment and prognosis of breast cancer. The five-year survival rate following breast cancer diagnosis and surgery is approximately 66%. While early detection and screening for breast cancer can dramatically increase the chances of successful treatment, there is no cure for breast cancer. However, advances in medical research and treatments have resulted in substantial improvements in overall survival and the ability to diagnose and treat cancer at an earlier stage.
Screening for breast cancer involves several different methods including mammography, ultrasound, and MRIs. A definitive diagnosis is made by a thorough analysis of the breast tissue using computerized tomography or magnetic resonance imaging. This method is most effective in the detection of tumors that are large, irregularly shaped, and close to the surface. A breast biopsy is performed to obtain additional information about the tumor and to help in the diagnosis of the disease.
To determine the clinical significance of abnormalities in the ligamentum arteriosus and the anterior breast muscles, CT, MRI, and ultrasound are used. A blood test called a lymphoblastoid cell count reveals the presence of healthy and cancerous cells. For the purposes of prognosis, a score from the modified Rankin scale is most often used to compare the disease with normal breast cancer cases. The modified Rankin scale is based on the extent of the major subtypes of breast cancer and the patient’s personal history of cancer. The A score is greater for women with epithelioid cell types than for those with mixed or trichomonoid cell types.
A mammogram is one of the more definitive tools to diagnose this disease. Mammograms can be used alone or in conjunction with radiotherapy to shrink tumors. A chest x-ray and mammography are often used to assess the effects of radiation and to establish prognoses. A final examination with biopsy or tomography will most likely clarify whether the tumor cells have spread beyond the capsule and will result in a more definitive diagnosis.
A mammogram allows for the detection of small masses that are not visible on the mammogram. A high quality mammography combined with biochemical markers and the results of a lymphoblastoid cell count will provide a definitive diagnosis. Cancer markers can include the breast tumor marker breast stem cell factor (BSC), molecular biology indicator, and prognosis marker, among others. A reliable biochemical marker for this condition is the Hologic marker of differentiation, known as HBD, which distinguishes between cancer cells and healthy cells.
There are several specific tests that may be used to infer a woman’s overall cellular health, including: whole-body fluorescence imaging (WFA), gene expression profiling (GE), and genome sequencing. Whole-body fluorescence imaging uses light to identify molecular activity in organs such as skin, muscle, heart, liver and blood vessels. Gene expression profiling detects differences in genes expressed in different parts of the body. Similarly, genetic sequencing identifies DNA sequences as single units and determines the relatedness through comparison with other DNA sequences from people in the same biological family. WFA and GE can only be done in cells grown in culture and may therefore be difficult to conclude from patient pathology.
A useful combination of these tests will help determine if the cancer has spread beyond the capsule and is potentially spreading to the lymph nodes or adjacent lymph nodes or the nearby tissues. A last-minute imaging technique called immunohistochemistry can also be useful. Immunohistochemistry is based on the idea that tumor cells release a specific antibody that can distinguish them from normal breast cells. This test has recently advanced to the point of being compatible with Next Generation sequencing and other more sophisticated technologies. It does not, however, allow to make a direct comparison between the tumor cells and normal breast cells.
Diagnostic techniques for breast cancer have come a long way over the years. They have provided patients with much better outcomes at earlier stages of the disease. The advances in diagnostic technology are likely to continue for several years. As a result, breast cancer patients no longer have to suffer the debilitating symptoms and painful consequences of this disease; on the contrary, they can now seek proper treatment.