Diagnosing Breast Cancer
A brief description of common diagnostic tests for breast cancer.
Clinical Breast Exam
A doctor can tell a lot about a lump by carefully feeling it and the tissue around it. Scattered, lumpy changes in the breast, especially the upper, outer region, usually aren’t cancerous. In the early stages, the lump may move freely beneath the skin when it’s pushed with the fingers. In more advanced stages, the lump usually adheres to the chest wall or the skin over it. Benign lumps often feel different from cancerous ones — the doctor can examine the size and texture of the lump and determine whether the lump moves easily.
Based on these exams, a doctor may decide that no further tests are needed and no treatment is necessary. In such cases, a doctor may need to check the woman regularly to watch for any changes.
Often, fluid or tissue must be removed from the breast before a diagnosis can be made. A woman’s doctor may refer her for further evaluation to a surgeon or other health care professional who has experience with breast diseases. These doctors may perform: