Breast Cancer and Ductal Lavage
Who Is a Candidate for Ductal Lavage?
Ductal lavage is recommended only for women who are at high risk for breast cancer. There are several factors that put a woman at high risk for developing breast cancer, including:
- A personal history of breast cancer
- A family history of breast cancer, particularly in a mother, daughter, or sister
- Evidence of a specific gene (BRCA1/BRCA2) mutation
- A Gail Index score of at least 1.67%. The Gail Index uses risk factors such as age, family history of breast cancer, age of first menstrual period and first pregnancy, and number of breast biopsies to calculate a woman's risk of developing breast cancer within the following five years, from the analysis.
Talk to your doctor about whether you could benefit from this screening procedure.
What Happens if Atypical Cells Are Found?
Not all abnormal cells are destined to become breast cancer. In fact, less than 1% of women have cancerous cells identified by a ductal lavage. Knowing that you have atypical cells can help you and your doctor plan a strategy to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. A strategy may include:
- A repeat ductal lavage or other tests to confirm previous results
- Increased breast health monitoring, such as more frequent clinical breast exams
- Taking certain medication that may reduce your risk of breast cancer such as tamoxifen, Evista or Aromasin
- Surgery such as prophylactic mastectomy (surgery to remove a breast before cancer develops)
What Will I Feel During a Ductal Lavage?
Most women don't find ductal lavage to be painful, saying it is no more uncomfortable than a mammogram. You may feel temporary sensations such as fullness, pinching, and tingling in the breast. However, numbing medications (anesthetics) are used to help reduce discomfort during the procedure.
Is Ductal Lavage Used Instead of a Mammogram to Screen for Breast Cancer?
No. Ductal lavage is used along with other regular breast health practices such as regular breast self-exams, annual clinical exams, and mammography. It is not a replacement for these screening tools. In addition, ductal lavage is not recommended for women with a low risk for breast cancer.
What Risks Are Associated With Ductal Lavage?
There are few risks associated with ductal lavage. Rarely, an infection may develop at the site of the catheter insertion. It is possible to perforate, or puncture, the milk duct, although perforation is rare and generally causes no permanent damage to the breast.