Learn how our breast cancer nurse navigators help support our patients.
Breast Cancer Diagnosis
When you discover a lump or other change in your breast, it is important to find out what it is. It is normal to feel anxious. But you have reasons to be reassured: Most women, sometime in their lives, develop lumps in their breasts. Most lumps are NOT breast cancer. In fact, 8 of 10 lumps are harmless. To be sure that a lump or other change is not breast cancer, you need to have some or all of the lump removed (a biopsy). A diagnosis can then be made by a pathologist, a doctor who looks at the cells under a microscope to find out if the tissue is normal or cancerous.
Thanks to our extensive experience working with breast cancer patients and our advanced technologies, diagnosing breast cancer often occurs at a very early stage using the most minimally invasive techniques possible.
Our goal is to make a quick and accurate diagnosis, using the most minimally invasive techniques possible.
Imaging Tests – Our highly skilled mammography specialists have the experience and expertise to precisely evaluate the subtle changes and abnormalities that may indicate benign, precancerous or malignant breast tissue.
Ultrasound may be used as a follow-up to a mammogram. Using high-frequency sound waves, ultrasound is especially effective in discriminating between cysts and solid masses that could be cancerous.
Biopsy Procedures – When abnormal areas are identified through an imaging test, physicians will perform a biopsy to help with a definitive diagnosis. A biopsy is a procedure in which tissue samples are removed from a suspicious area and examined under a microscope.
John Muir Health uses all of the most advanced minimally invasive biopsy procedures available; discuss with your physician what is the most appropriate procedure for you.
Fine Needle Aspiration – Using a thin needle, fluid is drawn from the lump in your breast. If clear fluid is drawn, the lump is most likely a cyst. If the lump is solid, small tissue samples will be removed and examined in the laboratory.
Core Needle Breast Biopsy - We are able to do the biopsy of the breast using ultrasound which allows patients to return to normal activity immediately. Using local anesthetic, results can be made available much sooner. It is a minimally invasive procedure, and usually only requires a single 1/4-inch incision for biopsy. The physician can selectively sample the target area of a lesion or completely remove small lesions. Patients generally experience minimal discomfort, have a tiny scar, and may return to normal activity immediately following the procedure.
Stereotactic Core Biopsy – When the abnormal area in the breast is too small to be felt, radiologists may perform a minimally invasive image-guided biopsy. Stereotactic Core Biopsy uses a special mammography machine to help guide the radiologist’s instruments to the site of the abnormal tissue. The core (hollow) needle is larger than that used for fine needle aspiration, allowing greater quantities of tissue to be sampled.
Ultrasound-Guided Breast Biopsy – This is another minimally invasive procedure using ultrasound imaging and a core needle to remove suspicious breast tissue.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)-Guided Breast Biopsy – This is another minimally invasive procedure using magnetic resonance imaging to help guide the radiologist’s instruments.
Surgical Biopsy – In certain cases your physician may recommend using a surgical technique in order to get a better understanding of your breast cancer and determine whether or not the cancer has spread.
Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy – This innovative and minimally invasive technique allows us to examine the "sentinel node," or the site where cancer cells from a breast tumor would first migrate. If the sentinel node is free of cancer there is no need to remove any additional nodes.
Additional Testing – When cancer cells are found, additional tests are performed to determine certain complex characteristics or variables of each breast cancer. These tests help determine the presence or absence of key receptors and proteins, and will help the physician determine the stage of the disease so we can devise the most appropriate and effective treatment plan for you.