Banner Health
Making healthcare easier

Breast Cancer Tests, Diagnosis, Prognosis, and Stages

Thanks to early detection and improved treatments, the number of women surviving breast cancer has steadily increased over the past 30 years.  And, although it’s still the second most common cause of death from cancer for women in the United States, many forms have a high survival rate.

Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center is dedicated to the prevention and early diagnosis of breast cancer. We use the latest research and advanced technology to diagnose and treat patients with breast cancer. If you have any risk factors or symptoms, Banner MD Anderson can help. Our team of caring experts is here for you every step of the way.

Are There Screening Tests for Breast Cancer?

Routine cancer screenings are the most important thing you can do to detect breast cancer early. Screening can find cancer before you experience symptoms. Most health insurance plans cover the cost of breast cancer screenings, including mammograms.

Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines

Banner MD Anderson recommends most women follow breast cancer screening guidelines from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network:

Women Ages 25 to 39

  • Clinical breast exam – Every 1 to 3 years. A health care provider checks for lumps or other changes. This is often done during your annual well-woman checkup by your gynecologist.
  • If you’re considered at higher risk, your doctor may recommend more frequent breast exams and/or to start having mammograms before age 40.

Women Ages 40 and Older

  • Clinical breast exam – Every year
  • Mammogram – Every year

Additional Recommendations

Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center also recommends you:

  • Practice “breast self-awareness”
  • Talk to your doctor about your risk for developing breast cancer
  • Consider additional, proactive breast cancer screenings if you’re at risk

What Tests Are Used to Diagnose Breast Cancer?

A breast cancer diagnosis usually begins with an imaging examination. You doctor may order a diagnostic mammogram, ultrasound or MRI. If your imaging results are abnormal, your doctor may then order a biopsy of the breast to obtain a small sample of tissue that will provide a definitive diagnosis. Should you be diagnosed with breast cancer, your doctor may order additional tests. These results can help identify cancer treatment options that will be most effective for you.

Should I Consider Genetic Testing?

If your family has a strong history of breast and/or ovarian cancer, you may have inherited a gene that puts you at higher risk. Some people choose to get a genetic test, which involves a blood or saliva sample, to find gene abnormalities. Learn more about Banner MD Anderson’s genetic testing options.

Banner MD Anderson offers the latest screening and diagnostic tests for breast cancer. Schedule a mammogram with our team of experts at one Banner MD Anderson’s state-of-the-art facilities.

What Is the Prognosis for Breast Cancer?

New and better breast cancer treatments are helping people diagnosed with cancer live longer than ever before. There are many factors your doctor considers when determining your prognosis, such as the size, stage and type of breast cancer, as well as your age and general health.

Stages of Breast Cancer

Banner MD Anderson knows each person is unique, and so is their breast cancer. While breast cancer staging helps doctors and patients understand the disease’s progression, individual treatment options and results vary. Doctors use the results of your diagnostic tests to determine breast cancer stage, treatment options and prognosis.

  • Stage 0: Cancer is contained within the breast milk ducts
  • Stage I (1): Cancer is small and has started to spread to other breast tissue
  • Stage II (2): Cancer has grown and/or spread to nearby tissue and/or up to three lymph nodes
  • Stage III (3): Cancer has grown and/or spread to nearby tissue, chest wall, and/or four to nine lymph nodes
  • Stage IV (4): Cancer has spread far away from the breast and lymph nodes to other parts of the body like the bones, lungs, liver and brain

Request an appointment