We first talk to you about your symptoms and perform a physical breast exam. To get a precise diagnosis, we may recommend other tests to determine the location and stage of breast cancer. The stage refers to how advanced the cancer is and if it has spread (metastasized). Tests include:
- Tomosynthesis: A 3-D, X-ray reconstruction of the breast is the most sensitive breast cancer test available. It can detect cancer at its earliest, most curable stage. Find AHN locations that offer tomosynthesis.
- Digital mammogram or full-field digital mammography (FFDM): A digital X-ray of the breast (mammogram), this test allows technicians to zoom in on select areas. Find AHN locations that offer mammogram. Digital mammogram is better able to detect cancer in the following individuals:
- Pre- or peri-menopausal
- Under the age of 50
- Those with dense breast tissue
- Ductogram: For this mammogram, we inject contrast material to get a clear picture of the milk ducts.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Powerful magnets and radio waves create pictures of the breast. Often, we inject a contrast material into a vein to clearly show breast tissue details.
- Ultrasound: We send high-frequency sound waves through the breast to create images. We may use ultrasound to guide other screenings so we can get results that are as precise as possible.
For a biopsy, we remove a sample of breast tissue to examine it for signs of cancer. We use minimally invasive techniques for biopsy procedures so your recovery is shorter and more comfortable. Biopsies can confirm a cancer diagnosis.
More than 99 percent of our breast biopsies are core biopsies. During this procedure, we:
- Numb the breast with local anesthesia
- Use a “core” or hollow needle to remove breast tissue
- Send the tissue to a specially trained physician called a pathologist who examines it for abnormal or cancerous cells
A technician may use equipment to guide the physician to the exact location of the suspicious cells or lump, increasing the precision of the procedure. Equipment may include:
- Computer coordinates
Other breast biopsy options
- Surgical (or open) biopsy: We give you either local or general anesthesia and then remove part or all of a lump through an incision in the breast.
- Mammotome®* breast biopsy system (vacuum-assisted biopsy): After giving you local anesthesia, we gently collect the tissue sample through a small ¼-inch incision.
Call the AHN Cancer Help Line anytime at (412) NURSE-4-U (412) 687-7348 to schedule a cancer-related appointment or to just talk with our nurses about diagnoses, treatments, and side effects.