Diagnosing breast cancer

Diagnosing breast cancer consists of several different tests in order to ensure the exact diagnosis and to find out as much as possible about progress, stage and severity of the cancer. This way your treatment can become very perosnalized.


There are different tests to take in order to diagnose breast cancer. The NHS offers a screening programme and this could be the first step in finding out if you have breast cancer. If you are not participating in this programme, you can go to your GP if you fear that you have breast cancer. Your GP will refer you to a specialist where your first tests will be made.

Testing to diagnose breast cancer

A mammogram (an x-ray of your breasts) is the first test you get but an ultrasound scan might also be necessary. If these tests are not conclusive, an MRI may be suggested, to retrieve pictures of the breast from more angles. The fourth option for testing whether you have breast cancer or not, is a biopsy, which is a test of the tissue cells from your breast. By taking a sample of these cells, you can check if they are cancerous. You may also need to have a sample taken from your lymph nodes, to see if the cancer has spread and has affected the lymph nodes too.

After the diagnosis, you will need more tests to establish what kind of breast cancer you have and what stage it's in. These next tests will also help determine the appropriate treatment for your condition.

Last updated: 03/04/2018

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