NCCN Guidelines for Patients™: Breast Cancer
3.1 Do I have breast cancer?
For many women over 40 years old, a lump in their
breast or an abnormal mammogram is often the first sign
of breast cancer. Other signs of breast cancer include
breast thickening, fluid from the nipple, and skin changes
of the breast. Your doctor will need more information
if you have these signs. Results from screening and
diagnostic tests will help decide if you have cancer.
A diagnostic mammogram looks at the breast more
carefully and gives more precise information about the
tumor. It gives extra views of the breast by squeezing it
in different ways and taking more x-rays. Only about 90%
of breast cancers can be seen on mammograms. If the
mammogram does not give enough information, an MRI
or ultrasound may be needed.
A biopsy is needed if cancer is suspected. Most often,
biopsies are benign. There are two types of biopsies.
For both types, the doctor will numb the area to make
the procedure as painless as possible.
. Most often, doctors remove breast
tissue with a needle inserted through the skin into the
mass. This type of biopsy is called a needle biopsy. It
causes less discomfort than other biopsies and provides
important information for treatment decisions.
• More cancer tests are needed if you find a
lump or have abnormal screening results.
• Tests of breast tissue are the only way to
know if you have breast cancer. Needle
biopsies of breast tissue are common and
cause little pain.
• Tests that take pictures of your body can tell
if the cancer has spread.
• Tumor tests can tell if hormones or HER2
proteins help your cancer grow.
• Tests of your genes can help tell if your
cancer will come back after treatment.
• A pathologist looks at your cells with a
microscope to decide test results.
• Breast cancers are grouped into stages
0 – IV based on how likely they are to act.
Early stages of breast cancer are more likely
to be cured.
• Breast cancers are also grouped into grades
1 – 3 based on how the cells look. A lower
grade is less likely to spread.
Part 3: Tests for breast cancer