How do I find out if I have breast cancer?

If a patient exhibits potential signs or symptoms of breast cancer; discovering a lump or mass near the breasts, having nipple discharge or any other concerns that may indicate breast cancer; doctors will screen for breast cancer by performing a series of tests used to diagnose and monitor patients with breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Screening Tests

Breast Exam

A doctor examines both breasts to feel for any lumps or abnormalities.


A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast identifying a breast lump.

Breast Ultrasound

A breast ultrasound are sound waves producing images of structures deep within the breast. Breast ultrasounds show whether the lump is solid or fluid-filled.

Breast Biopsy

A breast biopsy removes a sample of breast cells to determine whether the cells are cancerous.

Breast MRI

A breast MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, are magnetic and radio waves used to produce images of the breast. An MRI helps better identify the breast lump or evaluate an abnormal change on a mammogram.

Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

A sentinel lymph node biopsy is a procedure in which the sentinel lymph node is removed for examination under a microscope to determine whether cancer cells are present to determine if the cancer has spread.

When breast cancer is diagnosed, tests will be done to find out if the cancer has spread from the breast to other parts of the body. This is called staging and is an important step toward planning a treatment program.

Loma Linda University Medical Center provides additional information about the Stages of Breast Cancer as defined by the American Joint Committee on Cancer.

Learn how breast cancer patients benefit from proton therapy.