If you need to have more tests, you will be asked to attend a breast assessment clinic. The clinic staff will explain why you have been invited back and which tests you need. You might be able to have the tests and results on the same day. But sometimes you may have to come back for further tests or for your results.
At the breast assessment clinic
At the clinic, you will see a specialist doctor and a specialist nurse or radiographer. They usually ask you if you have had any breast problems or if anyone in your family has had breast cancer.
The doctor or nurse will examine your breasts and the lymph nodes under your arm and around your neck. Some of the tests you might have include:
You may have more mammograms that focus on one area of your breast. These can be taken from different angles or by using magnification to make the image of the area bigger.
An ultrasound uses sound waves to build up a picture of the breast tissue. It can show whether an abnormal area is solid (made of cells) or is a fluid-filled lump (cyst).
During the appointment, you will be asked to take off your top and bra, and lie down on a couch with your arm above your head. The person doing the scan puts a gel on your breast and moves a small hand-held device around the area. A picture of the inside of the breast will show up on a screen. They may also do an ultrasound of the lymph nodes in your armpit.
An ultrasound only takes a few minutes and is painless.
This is when the doctor takes a small piece of tissue or some cells (a biopsy) from any abnormal areas. A pathologist will examine the tissue or cells under a microscope to look for cancer cells. A pathologist is a doctor who specialises in analysing cells.
For a few days after, your breast may feel sore and bruised. Taking painkillers will help with this. Any bruising will go away in a couple of weeks.
There are different ways of taking a biopsy. Your doctor or nurse will explain the type of biopsy you will have.
Needle (core) biopsy
This is the most common type of biopsy. Before taking the biopsy, the doctor or radiographer will inject some local anaesthetic into the area to numb it. They will then use a needle to take a small piece of tissue from the abnormal area. You may feel some pressure for a short time during the biopsy.
Vacuum-assisted biopsy (VAB)
The doctor or radiographer will give you an injection of local anaesthetic into the skin to numb the area. They then make a small cut and insert a needle through it into the breast.
A mammogram or ultrasound picture helps them guide the needle to the correct area. The doctor uses a vacuum method to gently withdraw a piece of tissue into a small collecting chamber.
They can take several biopsies without needing to remove the needle and put it in again.
Fine needle aspiration (FNA)
This is a quick, simple test. The doctor, nurse or radiographer puts a very fine needle into the area and withdraws a sample of cells into a syringe. This test is often used to take a sample of cells from lymph nodes in your armpit.