Breast cancer is called metastatic when the cancer cells invade other organs of the body. Metastatic cancer cells have ability to travel through out the body with help of blood or lymphatic system. The most common sites of breast cancer metastasis are bone, lungs, brain, liverand chest. Understanding of mechanism through which the cancer cells travel along the body has increased the last decade. However, no diagnostic test has been developed till date that can confirm whether the cancer is metastatic or not. Metastatic breast cancer can be diagnosed from the symptoms of the patient. Otherwise, regular imaging is required to check if any changes have occurred in the primary cancer tissue compared to previous imaging report. Various imaging technique are available for the purpose. This article will discuss the procedure of the important diagnostic techniques.
Mammography: Mammography is X-ray imaging of the breasts. It is the most common diagnostic tool for initial diagnosis or screening. Breasts are flattened between to plates before tacking the images. The focus of the instrument can be changed according to the density of the breast tissue to get the clear picture.
Chest X-ray: Chest X-ray is used to check whether the breast cancer has spread to lungs or chest wall. The x-ray provides the contrast image of the lungs and hearts, where cancer cells are spotted in darker shades.
Ultrasound: Ultrasound uses unltrasonic sound waves to generate images of the inner organs of the body. Ultra sound is also known as sonography. Ultra sound is used for primary examination of the breast. It is also used for primary diagnosis of the breast cancer metastsis into liver or any other organ in the abdominal cavity. A special gel is applied on the part where the test is to be performed. A probe is used to take digital pictures of the organ being evaluated.
CT Scan: CT scan is an abbreviated form of computed tomography imaging/scanning. It is also called digital imaging. It is used as a secondary tool to evaluate the cancer tissue more closely or to check whether surgery can remove the tumour. A whole body CT scan can also be performed to examine other parts of body where chances of reast cancer metastasis are high.
Patient has to sleep on the moving platform. A contrast dye is entered through the IV line (arms). Straps are tied around the patient to limit the movement and the platform moves into a doughnut shaped X-ray machine. Digital photographs X-ray photographs are taken that can be stored as a digital file on the computer. Images of the whole body parts can be taken. Ct scan can be used to diagnose. It works on the same principals of the x-ray imaging. However, the contrast and clarity of the image is higher.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRI is comparatively newer technique, which uses magnet and radio waves instead of the X-rays; hence patient is not exposed to radiation. The working of the machine is similar to CT scan. A contrast agent in injected into veins and then the imaging is performed. The images of MRI are even clearer than CT scan. Similar to CT scan MRI can be used to diagnose breast cancer in any part of the body.
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