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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

  • Thumb avatar default

    Has anyone gone in for a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy and come out with a partial mastectomy axilllary lymph node dissection?

    Asked by anonymous

    Stage 2A Patient
    over 7 years 2 answers
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      I don't think this is all that uncommon. I remember my mastectomy was late because the woman before me ended up with a mastectomy and axillary lymph node dissection. Tests can only show so much and things can change once the surgeon starts the actual surgery. It is a shock to wake up and...

      more

      I don't think this is all that uncommon. I remember my mastectomy was late because the woman before me ended up with a mastectomy and axillary lymph node dissection. Tests can only show so much and things can change once the surgeon starts the actual surgery. It is a shock to wake up and discover things didn't go as expected. My surgeon told me my 5 sentinal nodes were clear. After the actual complete pathology was done, one of the nodes had a small area of cancer and my diagnosis went from a 2A to a 2B.
      I was pretty upset. This probably happens a lot more than one would think.
      Take care, Sharon

      Comment
    • Thumb avatar default
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2012

      Yep. I was to have a lumpectomy at the bottom of the breast and up to the edge of the areola. I told him if he had to take the areola and nipple to take the whole thing He drew on me so I could see what he PLANNED to do based on the core biopsy and ultrasound and how he would arrange the the...

      more

      Yep. I was to have a lumpectomy at the bottom of the breast and up to the edge of the areola. I told him if he had to take the areola and nipple to take the whole thing He drew on me so I could see what he PLANNED to do based on the core biopsy and ultrasound and how he would arrange the the tissue. My 3 sentinel nodes were clean and he got good margins but I ended up with a partial mastectomy. The incision is well hidden in the crease beneath my breast but he had to cut to the base of the nipple and remove a tiny secftion of the areola. He did a great job piecing me back together. Until they get in there and the all the tests results are in, the final product can be an unknown to us until we wake up. Cancer has a nasty way of messing up the best plan our doctors try to accomplish for us. Good healing to you. Jo

      Comment
  • Teresa Klein Profile

    had biopsy this morning. biopsy went a lot smoother than I thought. Now it's the waiting game. Really scared.

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    about 6 years 8 answers
    • View all 8 answers
    • Leah Fortune Profile
      anonymous
      Stage 4 Patient

      Good luck

      Comment
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      Teresa,
      Waiting is awful. You have had this procedure done so it is checked off. Try to keep yourself busy to pass the time. Lots of these turn out to be a lot of worrying for nothing. Hang in there and keep us posted. Take care, Sharon

      Comment
  • Thumb avatar default

    What happens after a CT scan?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    about 8 years 1 answer
    • Laura Cornwell Profile
      anonymous
      Industry Provider

      It depends where a patient is in their breast cancer journey.

      In the beginning of breast cancer diagnosis, a CT or oftentimes a PET scan (a CT that tumors light up on) is used to look for distant disease beyond the breast. Breast cancer can be by itself in the breast, it can spread to the lymph...

      more

      It depends where a patient is in their breast cancer journey.

      In the beginning of breast cancer diagnosis, a CT or oftentimes a PET scan (a CT that tumors light up on) is used to look for distant disease beyond the breast. Breast cancer can be by itself in the breast, it can spread to the lymph nodes, then in late stages it can spread to places such as the lung, liver, bones, or brain.

      CT scans are interpreted by radiologists. Typically this means that there is a period of days before the CT scan report is made available to the breast cancer doctor. The breast cancer doctor then reviews the report with the patient at their next visit. Depending on the results of a CT scan, many things can happen. Typically, if a cancer is still in the breast and lymph nodes, surgery will be performed and chemo or radiation may follow. If cancer has spread to distant sites, chemo would be the main treatment course.

      Comment
  • Janet Layden Profile

    More details: NYC Sloane Kettering surgeon said that if I DID have radiation, and any cancer returned, I would not qualify for another lumpectomy--that I would only qualify for a mastectomy. Is that TRUE? Please help.

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    about 7 years 8 answers
    • View all 8 answers
    • Cindy Smalley Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      That is what I was told also. Just hope it never comes back.

      Comment
    • Marianne R. Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2011

      I just learned something new

      Comment

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