Breast Cancer Diagnosis Checklist | Breast Cancer Awareness Month | Body and Soul

Breast Cancer Diagnosis Checklist | Breast Cancer Awareness Month | Body and Soul

Published October 13, 2009

( -- It can be helpful to carry around a checklist of all the information you want to gather about your breast cancer diagnosis, because you’ll be seeing results from the various tests at different times.

Although you may have already had a biopsy, for instance, your doctor might still need to remove lymph nodes to determine whether the cancer has spread.

What type of cancer is it? The most common form is IDC. Other common types include DCIS, ILC, and LCIS. 
Is it invasive? If the cancer breaks through the wall of the breast duct, it's considered invasive. If it hasn't broken through, though, it's called in situ, or noninvasive cancer. Invasive cancer is more serious.
What size is the tumor? This is measured in centimeters.
What stage is it? Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is stage 0, the most curable; cancer that has spread to other parts of the body is stage IV.
What is the histopathologic grade? This is a total score combining three different characteristics of the tumor as it appears under the microscope. Scores range from 3 to 9; a higher score indicates more aggressive cancer. Your report will include a histopathologic grade of 1 if your combined score is 3 to 5; 2 if your score is 6 to 7; and 3 if the score is 8 to 9.

After surgery:

Are the margins clear (aka negative) or positive? The surgeon removing the tumor tries to take a rim of cancer-free tissue around the tumor. We're trying to confirm that the surgeon got it all out. If the margins are positive, that may mean scheduling more surgery to get the rest out.
Is the cancer hormone receptive? Some cancer cells have a higher number of hormone receptors in the nucleus and that can promote the growth of the cells. Your report will say you're ER-positive, or estrogen receptor-positive, and/or PR-positive, progesterone receptor-positive, or negative for one or both. This helps doctors determine if you're a candidate for hormone therapy, such as tamoxifen, which blocks these receptors and can slow down or stop the growth of tumors.
What is the cancer's HER2/neu status? If tumor cells are HER2-positive, it means they're associated with a more aggressive tumor. Your HER2/neu status tells your oncologist whether the drug Herceptin (trastuzumab), which targets the HER2 protein, should be part of your treatment plan.


BDO ( is the World’s largest and most comprehensive online health resource specifically targeted to African Americans.

Written by Candace Hall, BDO Staff Writer


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