How is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?

Breast Cancer is often found as a painless lump. Other symptoms may include:

  • A new lump or lumpiness especially in only one breast
  • A change in size or shape of your breast
  • Nipple changes such as eczema, crusting, ulceration, redness or inversion
  • A nipple discharge that occurs without squeezing
  • Nipple retraction (pulling in of the nipple)
  • Skin changes such as redness or dimpling
  • Unusual pain that doesn't go away

Triple Test

Doctors often refer to the Triple Test to find the cause of breast changes. The Triple Test includes:

  • Clinical breast examination and taking a personal health history
  • Diagnostic Breast Imaging tests which includes mammography, ultrasound and/or MRI
  • A biopsy to remove cells or tissue for microscopic examination.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women. In New Zealand 2,600 new cases are diagnosed annually and 600 women die from the disease. Just over 20 men are diagnosed each year. In New Zealand, the average risk for a woman being diagnosed with breast cancer at some time in her life is 11% or 1 in 9. This also means there is an 89% chance of never developing breast cancer.

Mammographic screening (for women without symptoms) may detect breast changes before they can be felt. Increasingly breast cancers are being found through breast screening (mammography) before they are large enough to be felt.