Guide details triple test used to detect breast cancer

Cancer Australia has released a guide for GPs it says is designed to maximise the effectiveness of the investigation of symptoms that could be breast cancer.

The Investigation of a new breast symptom: a guide for General Practitioners details the triple test, which is the recommended approach to investigating new breast symptoms. The triple test involves patient history and clinical breast examination; mammography and/or ultrasound imaging; and the use of non-excisional biopsy.

Cancer Australia chief executive, Dr Helen Zorbas, said on Monday that when performed appropriately, the triple test will detect over 99.6% of cancers.

”Around 17,600 breast cancers are diagnosed in Australia each year, and more than half of these are diagnosed as a result of the investigation of a breast change,” Dr Zorbas said.

“Breast symptoms are a common presentation in general practice. While most changes are not due to cancer, it is important to use the triple test to either confirm or exclude a diagnosis of breast cancer.”

“The guide provides a step-wise approach to investigation, including the correct test sequencing and correlation of results,” she said.

The triple test is more accurate at detecting breast cancer than any of the individual components alone. A negative on all components provides strong evidence that cancer is not present.

“However if cancer is present, providing patients with a confirmed diagnosis is important to enable informed discussions and decision-making about treatment options.”

She said the guide “was developed to ensure currency with contemporary practice and latest evidence, and the guide is designed to support GPs in their vital role”.

The guide is an accepted clinical resource of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and has been endorsed by Breast Surgeons of Australia and New Zealand, the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists, the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine and Breast Cancer Network Australia. The guide will be mailed to GPs across Australia in November.