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 (also called a diagnostic mammogram), breast ultrasound or a 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 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 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
Molecular Subtypes of Breast Cancer
Triple Negative Breast Cancer
Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Paget’s Disease of the Breast
Metaplastic Breast Cancer
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 card about breast cancer diagnosis.
It may be helpful for you to print this card 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.
You can also download other Questions to Ask Your Doctor cards on many different breast cancer topics.
Susan G. Komen® Support Resources
Interactive Treatment Navigation Tool
1-877 GO KOMEN(1-877-465-6636)