Diagnosis and Staging

To determine the cause of any signs or symptoms, your physician will perform a careful physical exam that includes:

  • Personal and family medical history
  • Current overall health status
  • Breast exams, including feeling the lump, mammogram or an ultrasound

If imaging shows an abnormality in the breast, your doctor will follow up with a series of tests to determine whether cancer is present. Lumps that might be malignant (cancer) may be found by imaging studies or felt as masses during a physical exam, but they still must be sampled and looked at under a microscope to find out what they are. The procedure that takes a sample for this testing is called a biopsy.

It is important to remember that a lump or other changes in the breast, or an abnormal area on a mammogram, may be caused by cancer or by other less serious problems. Not all lumps are malignant.

Before diagnosing cancer, at Woman’s, a second expert will always review the sample.

The time between an abnormal mammogram and a diagnosis can be a stressful period. To reduce a woman's anxiety over her health uncertainty, we strive to present a cancer or non-cancer diagnosis within seven days of finding an abnormality in mammography.

If cancer is diagnosed, your doctor will want to know how far along the tumor has advanced, and this is done through a process called staging. Learn more about breast cancer staging.