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    Diagnosing Benign (Noncancerous) Breast Conditions

    How are benign breast conditions and infections diagnosed?

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

    • 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 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.