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Weill Cornell Cancer Center

Diagnosis

Most breast cancers are found on a mammogram or through palpation (during a self-exam or examination by a healthcare provider). Some cancers are found using imaging tests such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), recommended for women at high risk for breast cancer.

A diagnosis of cancer must be confirmed by biopsy. The biopsy can be performed in a number of ways:

  • fine-needle aspiration, in which breast fluid is withdrawn from the lump via a needle and examined for cancer cells
  • core needle biopsy, in which a thicker needle is used to remove tissue from the lump, which is examined for cancer cells
  • surgical biopsy to remove part or all of a lump for analysis

Once a diagnosis of breast cancer has been made, doctors may order additional tests to determine the extent (stage) of cancer growth, such as MRI and CT scanning.

Breast cancer tissue is also examined to see if it contains receptors for estrogen, progesterone, and/or the HER2 receptor. The findings of these tests are used to determine the most appropriate treatment for each patient.

All of these tests are available at Weill Cornell.

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