It is necessary to make the distinction between the assessment of the tumour itself and the presence of any metastases detected from the diagnosis.
The breast cancer diagnosis is reached by means of a clinical examination, a mammogram, an ultrasound test and the results of the anato-pathological puncture or biopsy.
In many cases, the breast surgeon recommends a magnetic resonance imaging breast examination to better determine the type of lesion and gauge how much it has spread. At the same time, it enables him to check the intactness of the other breast.
You will be prescribed 4 main tests to verify the absence of metastases:
- A blood test is for checking that the liver and kidneys are functioning properly. It is also used to assay the tumour marker a substance secreted by cancerous cells and which, if it manifests any variations, serves as a useful factor in monitoring the disease.
- The lung x-ray and liver ultrasound are routine tests recommended as part of the extension assessment.
- The lung and liver scans are used, if necessary, for a more accurate diagnosis.
- Nuclear medicine bone scintigraphy serves to verify bone integity, by the injection of a tracer substance. This test is not painful and is harmless to you and your family circle. If need be, it can be complemented by targeted bone x-rays.
Outside of this assessment, a cardiac examination will be performed to check that the heart is functioning properly. An ultrasound will be added to this if chemotherapy treatment has to be started.
In the vast majority of cases, these tests are sufficient. Nonetheless, if warranted, other tests can be prescribed, for example the PET scan, to accurately determine whether or not certain lesions that cannot be detected by conventional radiology or scanning are benign.