A breast lump or abnormal mammogram often requires more information. Diagnostic testing for breast cancer is the next step. At Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, we use the latest imaging, testing and procedures to provide an expert evaluation of your breast tissue.
Breast Cancer Diagnosis: The Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Advantage
We provide a timely and exact breast cancer diagnosis so that you can get the personalized treatment you need. When you come here for evaluation, you can expect:
- Breast imaging experts: The certified technologists and physicians who conduct our diagnostic breast imaging and procedures specialize in the breast. Their experience and expertise mean our evaluation of your breast tissue is accurate and advanced. Meet our breast team.
- Coordinated care: Our imaging navigators quickly manage your care. They set up any diagnostic imaging or procedures you need and schedule necessary follow-up appointments. Patients diagnosed with breast cancer meet with our breast cancer surgeon within days to get started on breast cancer treatment.
- Precise diagnosis: We have at least two pathologists analyze your breast tissue. They confirm their findings with our diagnostic physicians to reach an accurate diagnosis. For complex cases, we collaborate with our colleagues at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia. Our team-based approach means you receive the most exact diagnosis possible, typically within 36 to 48 hours.
- Financial support: We don’t let financial challenges keep women from getting the imaging they need. Our Endowment for the Center for Breast Health helps women pay for breast cancer screening and diagnostic services. Our Healthy Woman program also assists with the cost of breast imaging. Ask about financial assistance when you call to schedule your mammogram.
- Convenient services: All our diagnostic imaging and procedures take place on one campus, at our Suburban Pavilion in Lancaster. We offer appointments both early and late in the day, as well as on Saturdays. We perform mammography and breast ultrasound in the Suzanne H. Arnold Center for Breast Health and diagnostic breast MRI just one floor below. It’s easy for us to coordinate our approach to your breast imaging.
How We Diagnose Breast Cancer
At Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, we understand that getting personalized and effective treatment relies on a precise breast cancer diagnosis. We look at your breast imaging and tissue from every angle before diagnosing cancer. We use advanced imaging tools including:
We use advanced imaging to get a better look at suspicious tissue. If you’ve already had breast cancer imaging elsewhere, our expert radiologists will interpret your previous scans and order additional imaging if necessary. We use the newest imaging technology including:
- Diagnostic 3D mammogram: We use 3D mammograms (digital breast tomosynthesis) to diagnose breast cancer. This advanced X-ray technology looks at your breast tissue in three dimensions to capture images in “slices” of the breast. Compared to screening mammograms, diagnostic mammograms produce more detailed X-rays using specialized techniques. Expect your diagnostic mammogram to take longer than your screening mammogram.
- Ultrasound: Our mammogram technologists are also certified in ultrasound imaging, which uses sound waves instead of radiation to create images of the breast. When necessary, we use ultrasound in addition to mammogram to create a more complete picture of your breast tissue.
- Breast MRI: When we need more information than 3D mammogram and ultrasound provide, we use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This technology relies on radio waves and strong magnets. We partner with MRI Group to provide diagnostic MRI for breast cancer. Read frequently asked questions about breast MRI and watch what to expect during your breast MRI.
If diagnostic imaging suggests cancer, a biopsy either confirms or dismisses a breast cancer diagnosis. At Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, we look for confirmation of cancer in two ways:
- Tissue biopsy: A radiologist or surgeon removes a small amount of suspicious breast tissue for inspection. Two pathologists (physicians who study body tissue) examine the breast tissue to determine whether cancer cells are present and how advanced the cancer is. Learn more about breast tissue biopsy.
- Liquid biopsy: We use a sample of your blood to look for cancer cells or tumor cell DNA. This test helps us identify cancer, plan treatment, determine how well treatment is working and identify cancer that has come back.
Other Breast Cancer Tests
To learn more about a breast tumor, we conduct lab tests that may include:
Testing for HER2 and Hormone Receptor Status
Understanding what makes cancer cells grow and multiply helps us determine the best treatment. Whenever possible, we identify the characteristics of a breast tumor that may explain its growth. The two most common characteristics we look for are:
If cancer tests negative for hormone receptors and HER2, we call it triple negative breast cancer. That means the cancer does not rely on estrogen, progesterone or HER2 protein to grow.
Genomic Testing for Breast Cancer
Genomic testing, also called gene expression profiling, looks at patterns of various genes to predict whether early-stage breast cancer is likely to recur. We use this information to determine your treatment plan and whether you’d benefit from chemotherapy following surgery.
Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer
You may have an increased breast cancer risk if cancer is common in your family. The Cancer Risk Evaluation Program at the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute offers counseling and testing for people concerned about their genetic risk. If you’ve already been diagnosed with cancer, the results of genetic testing:
- May affect how we treat your breast cancer
- Establish whether you have an increased risk of developing a second cancer
- Provide your family with important information
BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BReast CAncer) genes are the two most common genes linked to hereditary cancer. If you have a BRCA gene mutation, Penn Medicine’s Basser Center for BRCA helps you and your family navigate treatment or reduce your cancer risk.
An Unexpected Breast Cancer Diagnosis: Gloria’s Story
Gloria was shocked when her physician diagnosed advanced breast cancer. She had yearly 2D mammograms and only recently noticed changes in her breast. In search of a second opinion, Gloria came to Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, where she learned that her cancer was growing undetected for years. Thanks to advanced technology, a precise diagnosis and expert cancer team, Gloria finally got the treatment she needed. Read Gloria’s story.
Request an Appointment for Breast Cancer Diagnosis
To make an appointment at the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute, call 717-544-9400 or request a callback using our online form.