Feature Article

Investigating breast symptoms: maximising the detection of breast cancer

Helen Zorbas



The challenge for the GP is to determine which symptoms are most likely to be due to breast cancer and to investigate them effectively. The ‘triple test’ – clinical examination, imaging, and fine needle aspiration or core biopsy – is the most effective means to maximise breast cancer detection.

Key Points

  • The vast majority of breast symptoms will not be due to a breast cancer.
  • The ‘triple test’ approach to diagnosis is the most effective means of maximising the detection of symptomatic breast cancer.
  • Any woman with a positive result from any one of the components of the triple test requires further investigation and/or surgical referral, irrespective of normal results of other tests.
  • All test results should be reviewed for consistency; when there is inconsistency, further investigation is required.