Home | Donate | Careers | Contact Us | Physicians | 1.888.STJOES1
St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center

Health Library

Espanol Library Multimedia Healthy Living Your Family Interactive Tools
Back to Encyclopedia

Diagnosing Benign (Noncancerous) 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.