Breast Cancer – Diagnostic Methods


During a regular physical exam, your physician will examine your breasts for the characteristic symptoms of cancer, including lumps, thickening, nipple discharge, or redness. If your doctor suspects that you may have breast cancer , he or she will likely order one or more of the following diagnostic tests:

  • Mammogram
    A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast to detect tumors that may be too small for your doctor to feel. The accuracy of this test depends on the size of the tumor, the density of the breast tissue, and the skill of the radiologist. Mammograms are considered to be the most sensitive method of detection available, but unfortunately, mammograms can still miss up to 15% of breast cancers.
  • Ultrasonography
    Sound waves may be used to evaluate lumps that have already been detected through physical examination or mammography. Ultrasound is useful in finding out if a mass is filled with fluid or is solid—solid masses are generally much more of a concern than those that are liquid-filled.
  • Aspiration and biopsy
    Depending on the outcome of the above tests, your doctor may decide to remove a sample of the questionable tissue to be examined more closely in a laboratory. A sample can be taken through fine-needle aspiration, large-needle biopsy, or surgical biopsy.

Many women with early stage breast cancer do not experience any symptoms, which is why having regular screenings is so important. If you are at a higher risk for developing breast cancer, it is especially important that you undergo regular screening tests. Regional Medical Center of San Jose’s Cancer Care team of professionals is extremely dedicated to providing the personalized care that every patient deserves. To learn more about our program or to be referred to a highly qualified physician, contact our staff at (408) 259-4000.

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