Diagnosing Benign Breast Conditions

How are benign breast conditions and infections diagnosed?

In addition to obtaining a complete medical history, your physician, in diagnosing a breast condition, may proceed with the following:

  • Perform a complete physical examination to:
    • locate any lump and feel its characteristics (i.e., texture, size, and relationship to the skin and chest muscles).
    • look for changes in the nipples or the skin of the breast.
    • check lymph nodes under the arm and above the collarbones.
  • Request imaging tests, including:
    • diagnostic mammography to look for masses and calcifications.
    • breast ultrasound to further evaluate information from the physical examination or mammography.
  • If there is discharge, other than breast milk, from the nipples, request a laboratory microscopic examination of the discharge.
  • If there is discharge, other than breast milk, from the nipples, request a ductogram x-ray of the nipples.
  • Request a biopsy of tissue removed from the suspicious area.

What are the different types of biopsy?

  • image-guided biopsies - those aided by ultrasound or other imaging technique, including:
    • fine needle aspiration - a very fine needle is guided into the suspicious area and a small sample of the tissue is removed.
    • core needle biopsy - a larger needle is guided into the lump to remove a small cylinder of tissue.
  • surgical biopsy - a surgical procedure is used to remove all or part of a lump.

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