Better testing for undetected cancer?


Question from Rita: I found a lump myself. The mammogram and sonogram did not show anything. However, when the biopsy was done, it was cancer. Is it common for the cancer to be undetected? I am concerned that with minimal margins, more cancer may be present. Are there better testing methods for those of us that had cancer undetected by mammogram or ultrasound?
Answers - Lynn Schuchter Rita, you bring up an important point: that there are limitations to our tests. Your situation underscores the importance that when a lump is detected and even if the mammogram is normal, a biopsy still needs to be done. This is a very, very important point. MRI of the breast can be used in this situation, and can help to determine whether it's breast cancer, and if so, the extent of the breast cancer. However, generally we look at the margin on the pathology report and if there is a question about margins, it may be necessary for more surgery to be done. MRI imaging of the breast is sometimes used to get a better idea of how extensive the breast cancer is. But it is not available at all institutions or hospitals, so sometimes it's necessary to go back in for more surgery which is really the most definitive way to make sure all the cancer has been removed.
Jennifer Armstrong, M.D. When I have patients whose cancer is not found with mammogram or sonogram, I recommend annual screening with MRI. Oftentimes I have to write letters to insurance companies to get this covered, and unfortunately these letters are not always successful. But I think it's important for MRI to at least be considered as a future screening tool.

On Wednesday, April 19, 2006, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Young Women and Breast Cancer. Lynn Schuchter, M.D. and moderator Jennifer Armstrong, M.D. answered your questions about the special concerns of young women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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