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Breast Cancer Diagnosis

How we diagnose breast cancer

Drs. Mislowsky and Brackett

Thanks to advances in imaging technology and public awareness, breast cancer can be diagnosed in its early stages, leading to improved survival rates. Tests we use to screen for and diagnose breast cancer include:

Diagnostic imaging

Mammogram - An X-ray of the breast that can find tumors that are too small to feel.

3D Mammography – 3D imaging allows doctors to examine each layer of the breast. 3D mammography may increase doctors' ability to find some cancers while also lowering the risk of false positive evaluations. Tidelands Health was the first health system in our region to offer 3D mammography. 

Ultrasound - Uses sound waves to evaluate lumps identified through breast exam or mammography; also used in evaluation of dense breasts.

MRI - Can detect tumors with greater accuracy in certain types of breast tissue or if cancer is suspected; also used to guide the needle during a breast biopsy.


Biopsies are performed when a diagnostic imaging test reveals an abnormal finding that cannot be resolved through other imaging techniques. Biopsy involves the removal of a small sample of tissue through one of several techniques. The choice of technique depends on the location and quality of the tissue to be examined.

Fine needle aspiration -  A thin needle is inserted into the suspicious area of the breast to remove fluid or cells from a breast lump for further evaluation or testing. 

Core needle biopsy – A larger, hollow needle is used to remove a small amount of tissue from the breast for further evaluation. When a slightly larger tissue sample is needed for a definitive diagnosis, a clinician will use a hollow needle to withdraw a thin cylinder from the suspicious area. This type of biopsy requires local anesthesia.

Image-guided core needle biopsy - Ultrasound, mammography or MRI is used to guide the removal of tissue using a hollow needle. 

Surgical biopsy – A surgical biopsy is performed when other techniques may not provide enough information to diagnose or rule out breast cancer. During surgical biopsy, radiologists and surgeons work to remove all or part of a suspicious mass. In some cases, if the lump can't be felt, a wire is inserted to guide the surgeon to the specific location.

Once a biopsy is completed, tissue samples are examined by our pathologists who specialize in breast cancer. Their findings are critical to determine the best treatment for you. 

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