How is breast cancer diagnosed?

Breast cancer doctors use advanced diagnostic tests and tools to accurately locate and stage the disease, and plan your individualized treatment. Throughout your breast cancer treatment, doctors use imaging and laboratory tests to track the size of the tumors, monitor your response to treatment and modify your treatment when needed. The following are common tests and exams used for diagnosing and treating breast cancer:

  • Breast exam
  • Biopsy
  • Ultrasound
  • Mammography
  • Other imaging tests: MRI or PET/CT scans, miraluma breast imaging and bone scans
  • Lab tests: tumor tests and genetic tests
Dr. Cary Hsu, MD

The diagnosis of breast cancer should start with a history and physical exam. A mammogram and ultrasound are used to look at the breast and tumors. Breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is indicated in some people as well. A biopsy may be used to better understand what’s going on.

For people at a higher clinical stage, a chest and abdominal computed tomography (CT) or MRI should be done. A bone scan may also be recommended as well as 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography (PET)/CT. Genetic counseling is important if someone is at a high hereditary risk.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.