1. Medical history
Your doctor will ask you questions about any symptoms you may have, and discuss other health conditions and risk factors that may affect your chances of having breast cancer.
2. Physical examination
Your doctor will conduct a complete physical examination to help determine the status of your overall health. He or she will also thoroughly examine your breasts for any lumps, masses, or areas which seem suspicious, and any changes in your breasts will be noted.
3. Imaging tests
- Mammograms are x-rays of the breast. Screening mammograms are used to detect breast cancer before a woman is showing signs or symptoms of breast cancer. If you are already showing symptoms, you will have a diagnostic mammogram. (See the section titled Mammorgraphy 101 for more information).
- Breast ultrasounds (sonography) use sound waves to outline a part of your body. It is usually used after a mass or abnormality is found in a mammogram and needs to be further examined. Ultrasounds sometimes help distinguish between cysts and solid masses.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) produces a very detailed image of your breasts by using radio waves and magnets. MRIs may be used before or after a breast cancer diagnosis.
A biopsy is a procedure in which all or part of the suspicious area is removed to be further examined under a microscope. Biopsies are done after other tests have detected an abnormality that may possibly be breast cancer. There are several types of biopsies.