What is it?

Once the diagnosis of breast cancer has been confirmed, the attending physician will request additional 'staging examinations'. That means that the physician tries to determine which stage the cancer is at and if the cancer has spread (metastasised). This information determines future treatment.

Which examinations are performed?

Liver ultrasound

This examination uses sound waves. The physician will place a significant amount of gel on your abdomen to ensure a good transmission of the sound waves. Next, the physician will look to see if there are metastases in the liver. The examination is painless.

Chest X-ray

This is an X-ray image of the lungs. Two images are taken: one that is anterior-posterior and another one that is taken from the side. This examination is performed in order to rule out metastases in the lungs.

Practical information

  • Do not wear any metal objects such as necklaces or bras at the level of the rib cage.
  • Inhale deeply for the image.

Skeletal scintigraphy

The skeleton is a living organ that continuously renews itself. New bone is formed in greater quantity and more quickly at places where the skeleton is stressed than at places where the skeleton is less stressed. In places where the bone was recently damaged (e.g. where the bone has broken, been infected or has had metastases), and in the damaged places where the skeleton tries to recover, new bone will be made quickly. That process is called an increased bone remodeling.

For breast cancer, a skeleton scintigraphy is performed in order to detect whether the tumour has spread (metastasised). The skeleton is often the first place where breast cancers metastasise. It is routine to perform this scan shortly before or after the procedure is performed. For a scintigraphy of the skeleton, a mildly radioactive substance (e.g. tracer) will be administered intravenously in your arm. This tracer is taken up by the complete skeleton over the course of the next few hours. Places with an increased bone remodeling will take up a larger amount of tracer than places with normal or reduced bone remodeling.

Centres and specialist areas

Breast Centre

Latest publication date: 05/02/2021
Supervising author: Dr Elzo Kraemer Ximena