Breast Cancer Diagnosis

To diagnose breast cancer, your UT Southwestern Medical Center doctor will perform one or several tests.

These tests can include:

Breast examination
Your doctor will check both breasts from several angles, feeling for any lumps or abnormalities.
X-ray of the breast is commonly used to screen for breast cancer. It can detect abnormal growth or changes in breast tissue. Mammography is the most effective method for early detection of cancer. The machine uses sound waves to create images of tissues deep within the breast. It’s often used to determine whether a lump is a noncancerous, water-filled cyst, or a solid mass that might be cancer.
Using a needle, your doctor will remove a sample of the suspicious tissue and have it tested in the lab to determine whether it’s cancerous.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Using a large magnetic field, the MRI creates images of the dense tissue deep within your body.

Cancer Staging

If cancer is diagnosed, your doctor may perform other tests to determine its stage, or how far it has progressed. The TMN classification uses information on tumor size and how far the cancer has progressed within the breast and nearby organs. Stages range from 0 to 4, with 4 being the most advanced.

Some of the ways the doctor will determine the stage are:

  • Blood test
  • Bone scan
  • Breast MRI
  • Chest X-ray
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Mammogram
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan

Not all women will require these tests to determine the stage. In some cases, the stage might be determined through surgery.

From diagnosis to treatment and beyond, our world-class cancer specialists are with you every step of the way, fighting your cancer with you. Our comprehensive, individualized approach to your care is aimed at creating the best possible outcomes for each person.