Diagnosis & Staging

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Early and accurate detection makes breast cancer one of the most treatable forms of cancer. The first step in evaluation of a suspected breast problem is a complete medical history and physical exam by a breast specialist. Questions about your symptoms, other health problems and risk factors for breast cancer can guide the health care professional in evaluating if further testing is needed. Diagnostic testing provides additional information to assist in diagnosis and treatment.

Moffitt’s Breast Evaluation Clinic provides an initial diagnostic consultation or a second opinion to patients with a new breast problem found by imaging or clinical exam. Each patient receives a clinical breast exam, comprehensive physical exam and any indicated diagnostic imaging. Patients are seen in this clinic prior to being scheduled for their diagnostic tests.

We offer a wide array of expert diagnostic services:

  • Diagnostic or screening mammography: low-dose X-rays are taken by certified technologists and interpreted by board-certified radiologists including the use of computer-aided detection (CAD).
  • Digital Mammography: a method of storing an X-ray image of the breast as a computer image rather than on the usual X-ray film. Digital mammography can be combined with computer-assisted diagnosis (CAD), a process in which the radiologist uses the computer to help interpret the mammogram. This is a useful tool when evaluating areas that are difficult to see in women with dense breast tissue or women who are premenopausal.
  • MRI: a special imaging technique used to image internal structures of the body, particularly the soft tissues such as the breast. This is a useful tool when evaluating areas that are difficult to see in women with dense breast tissue or women who are premenopausal.
  • Ultrasound: high-frequency sound waves and ultrasound images are used to diagnose cystic disease.
  • Fine needle aspiration: nonsurgical removal of a small number of individual cells with a thin needle, sometimes with the assistance of an ultrasound.
  • Stereotactic biopsy: computer-guided imaging locates a lesion and then removes a tissue sample for examination via a puncture site yet requires no stitches. This minimally invasive procedure is performed on an outpatient basis using a local anesthesia.
  • Core biopsy: uses a needle-like device that allows multiple, small cones of tissue to be removed and sent to the board-certified pathologist.
  • Surgical biopsy: removes a mass while under local anesthesia. A needle-directed or seed biopsy is performed for lumps that cannot be felt. During this procedure you will have an incision and some stitches.
  • Galactography or Ductogram: evaluates abnormal nipple discharge by injecting radiopaque contrast material into the milk ducts of the breasts.


  • Stage 0: ductal carcinoma in situ (abnormal cells in the lining of a breast duct)
  • Stage I: small primary tumor without metastases to the nodes
  • Stage II: small primary tumor with limited metastases to the nodes or larger tumor without metastasis to the nodes
  • Stage III: Large primary tumor with metastases to several nodes
  • Stage IV: Metastases to other organs such as bone, liver, lung, brain
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