When a breast exam or mammogram points to something suspicious, doctors refer patients for a biopsy. During this procedure, a small sample of cells or tissue from the suspicious area is collected using surgery, needles, or other techniques. After the sample is removed, it is sent to a lab for testing.
If the test results say cancer was found, you may want to seek a second opinion to confirm the diagnosis. Before getting a second opinion, you may want to contact your insurance company to find out what your policy covers.
A mastectomy is surgery to remove a breast. In the past, a radical mastectomy with complete removal of the breast was the standard treatment for breast cancer. However, surgical breakthroughs over the past two decades have given women more options than ever before. Less invasive breast-conserving therapy may be equally effective as mastectomy for treating breast cancer for some women.
The type of mastectomy and treatment for breast cancer depends on several key factors, including:
First, ask your doctor for a referral to a breast cancer specialist, or call hospitals or medical centers that treat breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute has labeled some centers as providing state-of-the-art, up-to-date cancer treatment. You can get a list of these centers by calling the Cancer Information Service at 1-800-422-6237. Get the names of several doctors and hospitals that offer the newest, most effective treatments and have the most experience in treating breast cancer.
When getting a second opinion, you'll want the doctor to make sure the initial diagnosis is based on expert review at an institution experienced in identifying different types of cancers and disease stages.
When you have cancer, getting the right treatment the first time is very important. You'll want to ask the second-opinion doctor to evaluate the treatment planned for you to ensure it's the latest therapy with the best chance of treating the type of cancer you have.
Consider these questions when seeking a second opinion for breast cancer:
Are the doctors who treat and diagnose breast cancer board-certified?
Is the hospital accredited by the Joint Committee on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and the American College of Surgery?
Does the American College of Radiology Mammography Accreditation Program accredit the mammography facility?
Has the hospital been positively and consistently recognized for medical excellence and leadership?
How many women are treated for breast cancer at the hospital each year?
How many mammograms are performed each year at this facility?
How many stereotactic breast biopsies are performed each year?
How many surgeries to treat breast cancer are performed each year?