Your Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Just as no two people are exactly alike, no two breast cancers are exactly the same, either. Your doctor will order a series of tests on the cancer and nearby tissues to create a “profile” of how the breast cancer looks and behaves. Some of these tests are done after the initial biopsy (removal of tissue sample for testing), others in the days and weeks after lumpectomy or mastectomy. Each time testing is done, we receive a report of results from the laboratory. All of these lab reports together make up your complete pathology report.

Your pathology report is so important because it provides the information you and we need to make the best treatment choices for your particular diagnosis. Those decisions depend on knowing characteristics such as:

  1. the size and appearance of the cancer
  2. how quickly it grows
  3. any signs of spread to nearby healthy tissues
  4. whether certain things inside the body — such as hormones or genetic mutations (abnormal changes in genes) — are factors in cancer’s growth and development

You must understand your pathology report and should know all the detailed information. If you’ve already been diagnosed with breast cancer and you see a test here that doesn’t appear in your report, don’t worry — not all of these tests are routine. Ask us if you’re concerned about any tests that weren’t performed on your tissue. The laboratory keeps your tissue samples for a long time after biopsy and surgery, so testing can be done later in the process of diagnosis if necessary.

The information in your pathology report often comes in bits and pieces. Just after surgery, the cancer cells are first looked at under the microscope. Results from additional studies that require special techniques may take longer. So you may have one, two, or three lab reports from one surgery. Together, the lab reports make up your pathology report. Try to keep all your reports in one place, so that when you consult for your treatment evaluations, we will have all the information they need