Just as no two people are exactly alike, no two breast cancers are exactly the same, either. Your doctor will order a series of tests on the cancer and nearby tissues to create a “profile” of how the breast cancer looks and behaves. Some of these tests are done after the initial biopsy (removal of tissue sample for testing), others in the days and weeks after lumpectomy or mastectomy. Each time testing is done, your doctor receives a report of results from the laboratory. All of these lab reports together make up your complete pathology report.
Your pathology report is so important because it provides information you and your doctor need to make the best treatment choices for your particular diagnosis. Those decisions depend on knowing characteristics such as:
- the size and appearance of the cancer
- how quickly it grows
- any signs of spread to nearby healthy tissues
- whether certain things inside the body — such as hormones or genetic mutations (abnormal changes in genes) — are factors in the cancer’s growth and development
In this section you can read more about what your pathology report is likely to include and what the information means. If you’ve already been diagnosed with breast cancer and you see a test here that doesn’t appear in your report, don’t worry — not all of these tests are routine. Ask your doctor if you’re concerned about any tests that weren’t performed on your tissue. The laboratory keeps your tissue samples for a long time after surgery, so testing can be done later in the process of diagnosis if necessary.