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Diagnosis

 
Diagnosis

Chapter: 4 - Diagnosis

Subchapter: 5 - Lab Tests

Once the biopsy is complete, a specially trained doctor called a pathologist will examine the tissue or fluid samples for abnormal or cancerous cells. Pathology reports can take one or two weeks to complete. The wait can be a real challenge, but being able to make an informed decision regarding your treatment is well worth your time. Remember, the pathology report helps give a full picture of your situation.

A core needle biopsy sample provides information on the tumor type and the tumor’s growth rate, or grade, which we discussed in Subchapter 3.2. If cancer is found, the pathologist will also test the cells for estrogen or progesterone receptors.

When a lumpectomy or wide local surgical biopsy is performed, the results provide information on the type, grade, and receptor status of the tumor. It can also can measure the distance between the surrounding normal tissue and the excised tumor. This distance, called the margin, shows whether the site is clear of cancer cells or not.

A positive margin means cancer cells are present at the margin of the tumor. A negative margin means there are no tumor cells at the margin. A close margin means that the distance between the tumor and normal surrounding tissue is less than about 3mm (.118 inch).

Using the pathology report and any additional scans or blood work, the cancer is classified into stages. Your medical team will use this information to design the best plan for you.

But before we discuss treatment options, in Chapter 6, we will elaborate on the types and stages of cancer.

Related Questions

  • Nikol Vega Profile

    Did anyone have a PET scan before surgery or is this usually done after surgery (lumpectomy)?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    about 7 years 5 answers
    • View all 5 answers
    • Aida Rivera Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      Yes I am having one this week and my surgery is on the 16th

      Comment
    • Ana Naluh Andrade Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      I just had it after surgery and chemo.

      Comment
  • Thumb avatar default

    Can breast cancer be known for sure without a biopsy?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 6 years 3 answers
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      As far as I know, this is the only definitive way of diagnosing for breast cancer. With that biopsy, a lot can be shown such as what type of breast cancer, and what the preliminary stage is. With that information, a treatment plan can be started. I know of no other way that would actually be...

      more

      As far as I know, this is the only definitive way of diagnosing for breast cancer. With that biopsy, a lot can be shown such as what type of breast cancer, and what the preliminary stage is. With that information, a treatment plan can be started. I know of no other way that would actually be able to examine the cells to see if cancer is present.
      Take care, Sharon

      4 comments
    • Anne Marie jacintho Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2003

      The only definite way to diagnose any type of cancer is with some sort of biopsy.... Blood test may give clues an may rule out other diagnosis. But a biopsy takes you right to the source and the specimen can be dissected under a microscope. A mammogram/ ultrasound /scan/MRI/even PET scan can...

      more

      The only definite way to diagnose any type of cancer is with some sort of biopsy.... Blood test may give clues an may rule out other diagnosis. But a biopsy takes you right to the source and the specimen can be dissected under a microscope. A mammogram/ ultrasound /scan/MRI/even PET scan can only point out a suspicious area or hot spot all wonderful diagnostic tools that usually lead up to a biopsy if something is found suspicious

      1 comment
  • Nicole W Profile

    Has anyone had a low score on the Oncotype test but still chosen chemo? I had lumpectomy with negative nodes but lymphovascular invasion so I think I want to be as aggressive as possible despite the side effects of chemo, but not sure yet.

    Asked by anonymous

    Survivor since 2013
    about 6 years 10 answers
    • View all 10 answers
    • Susan Green Profile
      anonymous
      Patient

      My onco score was 29 and I decided not to have chemo or radiation. My oncologist wanted me to go through both. She said that it would only increase my chances of cancer returning by 5 percent, and that was not enough for me. I had a mastectomy in Jan. of this year and am doing fine. My cancer...

      more

      My onco score was 29 and I decided not to have chemo or radiation. My oncologist wanted me to go through both. She said that it would only increase my chances of cancer returning by 5 percent, and that was not enough for me. I had a mastectomy in Jan. of this year and am doing fine. My cancer was fed by hormones. I had a lump that was 5 cm with negative lymph nodes. I would talk to my oncologist to see how likely your cancer would return without the chemo or radiation. This was my choice. I am on hormone blockers for 5 years, and I felt that if that is what was feeding the cancer, it should be enough as they removed everything! Good luck with whatever you decide and go through!

      2 comments
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      Nicole,
      Your Oncologist will give you the long list of side effects from chemotherapy. You are literally take a type of poison which kills both cancer cells and other fast dividing good cells. It's a tough call. After having been through chemo, I would look long and hard at all sides of this. ...

      more

      Nicole,
      Your Oncologist will give you the long list of side effects from chemotherapy. You are literally take a type of poison which kills both cancer cells and other fast dividing good cells. It's a tough call. After having been through chemo, I would look long and hard at all sides of this. You can't tell if you are going to be the one the chemotherapy does irreparable harm and damage to your body. I came out of it with severe osteoporosis. Other women come out with heart damage that can't be repaired. A woman I worked with and my mother-in-law both died of the heart complication..... not their cancer's. There is no way to advise or describe how you will feel going through chemotherapy. It is a very tough struggle in which you have to depend on others to help get you through it. If you have a job, you may not be able to continue until you are through treatment. If you have children, they are going to be seeing a pretty sick Mommy. On top of that.... you will lose your hair, possibly eyelashes, eyebrows, too..... the worst of all....ugh.

      Women need to choose the treatment options and be as aggressive as will make them feel they have done what is possible. Despite a low onco score, you really want to feel you have done every treatment available to you. If so, then it is really only up to you. My Onc and I discussed women who, no matter if a treatment is only going to be of 1% benefit to them, they still wanted it. This is your body, your choice, your life and if choosing to go ahead with a more aggressive treatment then it doesn't matter what anybody else advises.
      I hope more weigh in on your question.... it's a tough one.
      Take care, and good luck, Sharon

      1 comment
  • Thumb avatar default

    Should I wait until after i get my biopsy results to tell my adult children what is happening?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    about 5 years 7 answers
    • View all 7 answers
    • joan jones Profile
      anonymous
      Stage 0 Patient

      I think it is a very individual decision Based on many factors and your individual relationships .
      I have had 2 biopsies and have 2 adult daughters ..

      It was not an easy decision - but it was the right one for our family .
      I told them -
      They both agreed if it came back positive - it would...

      more

      I think it is a very individual decision Based on many factors and your individual relationships .
      I have had 2 biopsies and have 2 adult daughters ..

      It was not an easy decision - but it was the right one for our family .
      I told them -
      They both agreed if it came back positive - it would have been harder to have -not known -" something " was going on ...
      & then to get bad news
      & they both felt it was important to give support during that " waiting" time ....& did not want to be shielded and felt it was a matter of trust and support .
      First biopsy was ok - we celebrated
      Second biopsy this year was positive - and they both said they were glad they knew I had the biopsy and would have been harder if it came " out of the blue"
      They don't like surprises and not being in the loop--but each family and personalities and relationships are different .
      It is a very individual decision !!!
      Good luck - good health and peace in your heart !

      2 comments
    • Nancy Ries Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2011

      My mother passed away 5 days after I "flunked" my second mammogram of the week. My husband, adult daughters, sister and my mother's caregiver knew what was going on. I waited until I had an actual diagnosis after my surgical biopsy to tell others.

      Comment

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