Breast cancer physical examination

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Peau d’ orange appearance in breast cancer. Case courtesy of Rajendran MC. http://generalsurgeryclinics.blogspot.com/2013/06/peau-d-orange-appearance-in-carcinoma.html

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Soroush Seifirad, M.D.[2] Mirdula Sharma, MBBS [3]

Overview

Patients with breast cancer usually are generally well appearing. Physical examination of patients with breast cancer is usually remarkable for lump in the breast, peau d'orange, and inverted nipple.

Physical Examination

General Appearance

  • Patients with breast cancer are generally well appearing. Patients are generally oriented to time, place, and person.[1][2]
  • Nevertheless, in late stages patients appear ill, pale, and might present with decreased level of consciousness.

Skin

With respect to the disease stage and complications, the skin could be either normal, pale, or icteric.

Vital Signs

  • Vital signs are generally normal in early stages.
  • In the advanced disease state, almost any abnormality is possible due to brain, bone, liver, and lung metastases.

HEENT

  • HEENT examination of patients with breast cancer is usually normal, particularly in the early stages.
  • In metastatic breast cancer the following abnormalities might be present:
  • Icteric sclera due to liver metastasis
  • Ophthalmoscopic exam may be abnormal with findings of increased ICP due to brain metastasis.
  • Erythematous throat with/without tonsillar swelling, exudates, and/or petechiae due to chemotherapy or widespread disease immunosuppression.

Neck

Lungs

  • Pulmonary examination of patients with breast cancer is usually normal, particularly in early stages.
  • In metastatic breast cancer the following abnormalities might be present suggesting consolidation and pleural effusion due to metastatic disorder::
  • Asymmetric chest expansion OR decreased chest expansion
  • Hyporesonant lung auscultation
  • Fine/coarse crackles upon auscultation of the lung bases either unilaterally or bilaterally
  • Rhonchi
  • Vesicular breath sounds OR distant breath sounds
  • Normal/reduced tactile fremitus

Heart

  • Cardiovascular examination of patients with breast cancer is usually normal/none contributory.

Breast

  • May be attached to the skin or chest wall and cannot be moved.
  • The lump may feel hard, irregular in shape and very different from the rest of the breast tissue
  • The lump maybe tender, but it is usually not painful.
  • Thickening and dimpling of the skin

Abdomen

  • Abdominal examination of patients with breast cancer is usually normal/none contributory, particularly in the early stages.
  • In metastatic breast cancer the following abnormalities might be present:

Back

  • Back examination of patients with breast cancer is usually normal, particularly in the early stages.
  • In metastatic disease, vertebrae is one of the most common sites of metastasis, hence point tenderness over the vertebrae is quite common.

Genitourinary

  • Genitourinary examination of patients with breast cancer is usually normal.

Neuromuscular

  • Neuromuscular examination of patients with breast cancer is usually normal.
  • Patient is usually oriented to persons, place, and time
  • Altered mental status is possible in late-stage disease with brain metastasis, electrolyte abnormality or severe lung or liver disease due to metastasis.
  • Clonus may be present
  • Reflex abnormalities either hyperreflexia/hyporeflexia/areflexia due to CNS metastasis or electrolyte disturbance
  • Positive (abnormal) Babinski / plantar reflex unilaterally/bilaterally in brain metastasis
  • Peripheral nephropathy is the common complication of breast cancer chemotherapy.
  • Unilateral/bilateral sensory loss in the upper/lower extremity is probable finding in patients treated with

Extremities

  • Extremities examination of patients with breast cancer is usually normal.
  • The followings are suggesting metastatic disorder:

References

  1. Breast Cancer. Ganfyd (2015) http://www.ganfyd.org/index.php?title=Breast_cancer#Presenting_Symptoms Accessed on january 16, 2016
  2. Breast cancer. Canadian Cancer Society (2015) http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/breast/signs-and-symptoms/?region=on#ixzz3xScycfqv Accessed on January 16, 2016

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