Diagnosing Benign Breast Conditions

How are benign breast conditions and infections diagnosed?

In addition to obtaining a complete medical history, your healthcare provider, in diagnosing a breast condition, may:

Perform a complete physical exam to:

  • Locate any lump and feel its characteristics (for example, 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 exam or mammography.

If there is discharge, other than breast milk, from the nipples, request a laboratory microscopic exam 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 techniques, including:

  • Fine needle aspiration. A very fine (thin) 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 (core) of tissue.

Surgical biopsy. A surgical procedure is used to remove all or part of a lump.