Detection of Breast Cancer

The detection of breast cancer involves several breast cancer diagnosis methods. If you have a breast lump or abnormal results on a breast screening mammogram, your doctor may order additional tests to determine if suspicious tissue is cancerous.

The most common breast cancer diagnosis methods are:

Diagnostic mammogram

This mammogram is a detailed x-ray of your breast tissue. It is used to identify lumps, lesions or areas of tissue that appear abnormal on a screening mammogram. It gives physicians a clearer look at suspected abnormalities.

Breast ultrasound

Ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of your breast tissue. Ultrasound images are captured in real time so your physician can see blood flow as well as the internal structures of your breast. Ultrasound is often used after a lump is found or if tissue appears abnormal on a mammogram, and can be used to detect cancer early. It also reveals whether a lump is solid, fluid-filled, or both.

Breast MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

A breast MRI uses a magnetic field, radio frequency pulses and a computer to create detailed images of breast tissue. It can provide more information to your physician than mammograms or ultrasounds alone, and may be used when these methods do not provide a clear enough image for a breast cancer diagnosis. MRIs may also be used after an initial detection of breast cancer to determine the extent of the cancer and for follow-up exams after breast cancer treatment.

Breast Biopsy

A breast biopsy is a sample of breast tissue cells taken either surgically or through a hollow needle. The cells are examined under a microscope to determine if they are cancerous. It's important to note that a breast biopsy does not mean you have cancer, but is a test to determine if breast cancer cells are present in suspect tissue. A breast biopsy is the only way to determine whether or not a lump or abnormal growth is cancerous or benign (such as a cyst).