Further tests for breast cancer in women
If the biopsy results show there are breast cancer cells, you may need more tests before you can start your treatment.
You’ll have blood taken to check your general health and how well your kidneys and liver are working.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan
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An MRI scan uses magnetism to build up cross-sectional pictures of your body. If you have invasive lobular cancer, it may be done to find out the size of the cancer and help doctors decide which operation you should have. The scan is painless and takes about 30 minutes.
The scanner is a powerful magnet, so you’ll be asked to remove any metal belongings, including jewellery, before entering the scanning room. If you have any metal implants or have worked with metal or in the metal industry, tell your doctor.
Before the scan, you may be given an injection of a dye to help make the picture clearer. For a few minutes, this may make you feel hot all over. If you’re allergic to iodine or have asthma, you could have a more serious reaction to the injection, so let your doctor know beforehand. You’ll be asked to lie very still on a couch, inside a metal cylinder. The scan is noisy, so you’ll be given earplugs or headphones.
Some women may have other tests to check if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
This test shows up abnormal areas of bone. You have a small amount of a mildly radioactive substance injected into a vein. You wait for 2–3 hours after the injection before you have the scan, which may take an hour. Abnormal bone absorbs more radioactivity than normal bone and shows up on the scan pictures. Sometimes you may need a more detailed scan such as a CT scan.
CT (computerised tomography) scan
A CT scan takes a series of x-rays, which build up a three-dimensional picture of the inside of the body. The scan takes 10–30 minutes and is painless. It uses a small amount of radiation, which is very unlikely to harm you and will not harm anyone you come into contact with. You will be asked not to eat or drink for at least four hours before the scan.
You may be given a drink or injection of a dye, which allows particular areas to be seen more clearly. This may make you feel hot all over for a few minutes. It’s important to let your doctor know if you are allergic to iodine or have asthma, because you could have a more serious reaction to the injection.
You’ll probably be able to go home as soon as the scan is over.