Diagnosing Breast Cancer


If a woman finds a noticeable change in her breast through a breast self-exam, it is important to schedule an appointment with a doctor who can conduct specialized tests to determine whether or not the suspicious lump is in fact breast cancer. Some of the tests that may be performed to either rule out or officially diagnose breast cancer can include one or more of the following:


An X-ray of the breast, a mammogram is given to detect lumps in the breast. If a lump is found, additional imaging tests are then usually conducted to learn more about the lump.


If a lump is found through a mammogram, an ultrasound may be conducted. The purpose of this test is to create a picture of the lump through the use of sound waves to determine whether or not the lump is solid, or filled with fluid, or both.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Another type of imaging test called magnetic resonance imaging, or an MRI, uses a strong magnet to create a more detailed picture of the breast lump.


Once an imaging test confirms the presence of a lump in the breast, a biopsy is conducted to remove tissue from the lump. This breast tissue is then examined under a microscope by a pathologist in order to determine whether or not it contains abnormal cancer cells. There are several types of biopsies that can be conducted including a fine-needle aspiration biopsy, core biopsy, skin biopsy, or surgical biopsy.

Other Special Tests

Once the biopsy confirms the presence of cancer, additional special tests such as hormone receptor and HER2/neu are then conducted to learn more about the tumor. Treatment decisions are then chosen depending on whether or not the tumor is hormone receptor positive or HER2 positive.


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