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Every patient seen in the Comprehensive Breast Program receives a complete evaluation prior to diagnosis and treatment. An examination and diagnostic tests can help identify benign breast conditions and breast changes that might indicate breast cancer.

Graphic: NCI logoLearn more about breast cancer from the National Cancer Institute.

Types of screening and diagnostic tests:

  • A screening mammogram is an X-ray mammography examination of the breasts. This is the recommended and most common way to detect early breast cancer. Any woman 40 years or older should discuss having a screening mammogram with their health care provider. Finding breast cancer at an early stage with mammography has been proven to decrease the death rate of breast cancer in women.
  • A diagnostic mammogram is a customized mammography examination used to evaluate an abnormality seen on screening mammography or a sign or symptom of breast disease such as a breast lump.
  • A breast ultrasound uses sound waves to display an image of the breast tissues and does not involve X-rays. It is used to evaluate signs and symptoms of breast disease like a breast lump and to evaluate certain types of abnormalities seen on mammography. Breast ultrasound is often used to diagnose breast cysts and to help guide needle biopsy of a breast abnormality.
  • A biopsy is a procedure in which a doctor removes a small sample of tissue from the breast for further evaluation by a pathologist. There are many ways a breast biopsy can be performed. Biopsies can be minimally invasive or surgical. A minimally invasive biopsy usually involves a needle biopsy of an abnormality felt by you or your doctor, or seen on a mammogram or breast ultrasound. Your provider, radiologist, or surgeon will help determine which biopsy is appropriate for you after physical examination and/or review of your mammogram and/or ultrasound.
  • Breast MRI is a specialized imaging examination of the breasts which is often used in women with a new breast cancer diagnosis or in addition to screening mammography in women at high risk of developing breast cancer. MRI can also be used to diagnose breast implant rupture. The test takes about 30 minutes and, with the exception of implant evaluation, usually requires an injection in a vein in the arm.
Graphic: NCI logo

Learn more about Screening & Diagnostic Mammograms, Cancer Genetics, and Improving Methods for Breast Cancer Detection and Diagnosis from the National Cancer Institute.

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