Breast cancer is often first suspected when a lump or change is found in the breast or when an abnormal area is seen on a mammogram.
Most of the time, these findings don’t turn out to be breast cancer. However, the only way to know for sure is through follow-up tests.
This section describes how breast cancer is diagnosed and the factors that affect prognosis and guide treatment.
Sometimes, breast cancer can be ruled out with a follow-up mammogram (diagnostic mammogram), breast ultrasound or breast MRI.
Follow-Up After an Abnormal Finding on a Mammogram
Follow-Up After an Abnormal Finding on a Clinical Breast Exam
A biopsy removes cells or tissue from a suspicious area in the breast. The cells or tissue are studied under a microscope to see if cancer is present.
Core Needle Biopsy
Fine Needle Aspiration (Fine Needle Biopsy)
Assessing Margins After a Surgical Biopsy
Preserving Breast Tissue Samples for Pathology
Questions to Ask Your Provider Before a Biopsy
The breast tissue removed during a biopsy is sent to a pathologist. The pathologist examines the tissue and prepares a report of the findings, including the diagnosis.
What is a Pathology Report
Contents of a Pathology Report
Questions to Ask Your Provider About Your Diagnosis
Waiting for your biopsy results is hard. Try not to panic or worry. Most breast biopsies in the U.S. don’t show cancer .
Waiting for Biopsy Results
Learning about the factors that affect prognosis (chances for survival) can help you understand your diagnosis and your treatment options.
Factors That Affect Prognosis and Treatment
Lymph Node Status
Assessing Lymph Nodes
Types of Tumors (how the cancer cells look under a microscope)
Hormone Receptor Status (estrogen and progesterone status)
Tumor Profiling Score:
Breast cancer stage describes the extent of the cancer within your body. It's the most important factor affecting a person's prognosis.
Breast Cancer Stages and Staging
Tumor Size and Staging
Lymph Node Status and Staging
Metastases and Staging
Tests for Metastases in People Newly Diagnosed with Breast Cancer
Researchers are studying how molecular subtypes of breast cancer may be useful in planning treatment and developing new therapies.
Molecular Subtypes of Breast Cancer
Triple Negative Breast Cancer
Though they are not specific types of tumors, some special forms of breast cancer are described in this section.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Paget Disease of the Breast
Metaplastic Breast Cancer
New tools are under study that may inform breast cancer diagnosis and give information about tumors to help guide treatment.
Emerging Areas in Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Questions to Ask Before a Biopsy
Questions to Better Understand Your Diagnosis
Learn more about talking with your health care provider.
If you’ve been recently diagnosed with breast cancer or feel too overwhelmed to know where to begin to gather information, Susan G. Komen® has a Questions to Ask Your Doctor resource on this topic that might help.
You may want to print this resource and take it with you to your next doctor appointment. There’s plenty of space to write down the answers to these questions, which you can refer to later.
There are other Questions to Ask Your Doctor resources on many different breast cancer topics you may wish to download.
Susan G. Komen® Support Resources
Interactive Treatment Navigation Tool
The Role of Genetic, Genomic and Tumor Profiling Tests
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