Breast Cancer and Ductal Lavage
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.