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Diagnosing breast cancer

caines | 10/4/2012, 5:30 a.m.

Breast cancer can strike anyone, young or old, male or female, from all ethnic backgrounds and walks of life. Actor Richard Roundtree, Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts, former first lady Betty Ford and singer Olivia Newton-John are all breast cancer survivors. Their breast cancer experiences began when the disease was diagnosed because a symptom or screening test suggested breast cancer. The most common sign of breast cancer is a lump or mass. Other common symptoms include breast swelling, skin irritation, the nipple turning inward, nipple discharge (not breast milk), and breast or nipple pain. These signs may be noticed during a breast self-exam, routine clinical breast exam or screening mammogram. If a suspicious-looking area is detected, additional testing will be used to either confirm a breast cancer diagnosis or identify a benign condition. Three tests used to diagnose breast conditions are diagnostic mammogram, ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A diagnostic mammogram, which generates X-ray images, focuses on a specific area of the breast and takes more detailed images of the areas that look abnormal. An ultrasound, which uses sound waves, can help doctors determine if an abnormality is a benign fluid-filled cyst or a potentially cancerous solid mass. MRI, which uses radio waves and strong magnets, is sometimes used to look for tumors that did not appear on a mammogram. Imaging tests can help locate a suspicious breast mass, but they cannot confirm a breast cancer diagnosis. This is done during a biopsy to remove cells or tissue samples for laboratory testing. Depending on the individual patients history, I will usually recommend an image guided minimally invasive core biopsy, said Dr. Charles-Harris, the Medical Director of the new Breast Center at North Shore Medical Center which will open in early 2013. Dr. Charles-Harris explains: Ultrasound Guided Biopsy uses ultrasound to locate the breast abnormality under local anesthetic and an ultrasound probe. Its quick and virtually pain-free. Stereotactic Guided Biopsy is usually the chosen method when there are calcifications or distorted breast tissue. This is performed on a special table where a mammogram is used to locate the abnormality. An open biopsy may also be done.. During an incisional biopsy, a sample is removed from the abnormal area. An excisional biopsy involves removing the entire mass as well as a surrounding margin of normal tissue. Dr. Charles-Harris recommends: After the biopsy, the next step is discussing the pathology results with your surgeon. Having a family member or friend with you provides support and another ear for understanding the diagnosis and treatment options. Ask questions and work together with your surgeon in tailoring the right treatment plan to your diagnosis. If cancer cells are found after a biopsy, the pathology results can determine the cancer type and whether it is invasive (likely to spread) or in situ (localized). Additional tissue may need to be taken for a more conclusive diagnosis and additional surgical options may be discussed with your surgeon depending on the type of cancer, how much it has spread, your family history of breast cancer, your age, and other medical factors, he adds. According to Dr. Charles-Harris, Statistics show that 8 out of 10 biopsies are benign (not cancerous), but I have seen in our community a higher percentage of advanced cancer. The goal is catching it early! Breast cancer is not a death sentence! Be proactive in seeking treatment and turn to family, friends, and support groups for help. You are not alone! Dr. Hkan Charles-Harris is Board Certified by both the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Vascular Medicine Endovascular. Caring for the North Miami community since 2000, Dr. Charles-Harris has served three consecutive terms as Chief of Surgery at North Shore Medical Center, and one term as Vice-Chief of Staff at North Shore Medical Center. He is a Professor of Surgery at the Florida International University School of Medicine and has been appointed Medical Director of the new Breast Center at North Shore Medical Center which will be opening in early 2013. North Shore Medical Center invites you to join Dr. Charles-Harris and North Shore Medical Centers Chief Mammographer Dr. Atara Kane for a dinner discussion on Tuesday, October 9th at 6:30 p.m. at North Shore Medical Center where they will be talking about preventing and treating breast cancer. Call today at: 1800-984-3434 to make your reservation!