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Breast Diagnostic Testing

At Tanner, we believe that fast results mean less stress for our patients. Whatever the test or procedure, you’ll learn the results from a medical professional as soon as possible—often in hours, depending on the test. That way, you can get on with your life or begin important cancer treatments.

A number of different tests and procedures help Tanner’s physicians and oncologists diagnose breast problems or breast cancer. These include:


A biopsy is the removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer. If a lump in the breast is found, the doctor may need to cut out a small piece of the lump. A pathologist views the tissue under a microscope to look for cancer cells.

The types of biopsies include:

  • Excisional biopsy - The removal of an entire lump or suspicious tissue.
  • Incisional biopsy - The removal of part of a lump or suspicious tissue.
  • Core biopsy - The removal of part of a lump or suspicious tissue using a wide needle.
  • Mammotome breast biopsy - The collection of abnormal tissue through a small, ¼-inch incision—using X-ray or ultrasound images as a guide —with a Mammotome probe.
  • Needle biopsy or fine-needle aspiration biopsy - The removal of part of a lump, suspicious tissue or fluid, using a thin needle.
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy - A procedure in which the sentinel lymph node is removed and examined under a microscope to determine whether cancer cells are present.
  • Stereotactic breast biopsy – A procedure in which a special mammography machine that uses ionizing radiation helps guide the radiologist’s instruments to the site of the abnormal growth, and a needle is used to extract tissue. (Image-guided biopsy is performed when the abnormal area in the breast is too small to be felt, making it difficult to locate a lump or suspicious tissue by touch.)

Bone density test

Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, or DEXA, is the most common method to measure a patient's bone density. A DEXA scanner is a machine that produces two X-ray beams, each with different energy levels. One beam is high energy while the other is low energy. The amount of X-rays that pass through the bone is measured for each beam. Based on the difference between the two beams, the bone density can be measured. A low bone density may indicate osteoporosis—a degenerative bone condition that can cause bones to become weak and fracture easily.

Estrogen and progesterone receptor test

This text measures the amount of estrogen and progesterone receptors in cancer tissue. If cancer is found in the breast, tissue from the tumor is examined in the laboratory to find out whether estrogen and progesterone could affect the way cancer grows. The test results show whether hormone therapy may stop the cancer from growing.


A mammogram is an X-ray examination of the breasts used to detect and diagnose breast diseases. Mammography is a very safe procedure that used low doses of radiation to produce high-quality X-ray images. Screening mammography is used as a preventive measure for women who have no symptoms of breast disease. A screening mammogram usually involves two views of each breast.

Diagnostic mammography involves additional views of the breast, and is used when an abnormality is found during screening, or in women who have breast complaints such as a breast mass, nipple discharge, breast pain or skin irritation.

Screen-film mammography vs. digital mammography:

  • Screen-film mammography - In screen-film mammography, X-ray beams are captured on a film cassette. The film is then developed, and a radiologist reviews the films on a high-intensity light box. Available at Higgins General Hospital in Bremen.
  • Digital mammography - With digital mammography, X-ray beams are captured on specially-designed digital detectors. The digital detector converts the X-ray beams into electronic signals, which are then sent to a computer. The radiologist can review the digital mammogram on a high-resolution computer monitor, zooming in and digitally enhancing the image to make the most accurate diagnosis. Tanner Breast Health has the latest in digital mammography equipment. Designed for faster examinations, less compression and increase image quality, digital mammography has proven to be more effective in the detection of breast cancer. Digital mammography is available at Tanner Breast Health in Carrollton and Villa Rica, at Higgins General Hospital in Bremen and in Tanner's Mammography on the Move unit.

The American Cancer Society recommends that all women should have a baseline screening mammogram between the age of 35 and 40, and that beginning at the age of 40 women should have an annual screening mammogram. In addition to an annual screening for women 40 and older, women with certain risk factors should discuss an appropriate screening program with their physicians.

Call 770.836.9721 now to schedule a screening.

Sentinel node mapping

Sentinel node mapping is a procedure that maps how cancer might be spreading through the lymph nodes. Through a radioactive tracer and/or use of dye, surgeons can identify and remove the primary nodes that could carry cancerous cells to the rest of the body.


An ultrasound is a test that uses high frequency sound waves to produce an image of the body part being scanned. Ultrasound is accomplished by moving a small instrument over the area to be examined, which may be the abdomen, breast or other areas of the body. The instrument emits sound waves that reflect off of the body's tissues at different rates, creating an image of the internal structures of the body.

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