Breast Tissue Pathology and Testing

Breast Tissue Pathology and Testing

If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, your doctor may order special lab tests on the breast tissue that was removed. It may take several weeks to get the results of these tests. Breast tissue testing is critical to understanding your diagnosis and informing your treatment plan. 

Types of Analysis

Tissue analysis can help your doctor learn about specific features of a cancer to determine the best course of treatment, including tumor size and features, hormone receptors, HER2 status, and tumor grade.

  • Tumor feature examination: Examining cancerous cells under a microspore will help determine if the tumor is in situ, ductal, or lobular, still confined to the layer of cells where it began, and if the cancer is invasive or has spread to the lymph nodes.
  • Hormone receptor testing: Hormone receptor tests can reveal whether breast tumors have receptors for the hormones estrogen, progesterone, or both. If the hormone receptor tests show that the breast tumor has these receptors, then hormone therapy is most often recommended as a treatment option.
  • HER2 testing: HER2/neu protein is found on some types of cancer cells. This test shows if the tissue either has too much HER2/neu protein or too many copies of its gene. If the breast tumor has too much HER2/neu, then targeted therapy may be a treatment option.
  • Determining tumor grade: Tissue pathology also determines tumor grade, or how different the cancer cells look from healthy cells, and if they appear slow-growing or fast-growing.

Your doctor may recommend additional laboratory tests on your breast cancer tissue sample to identify other unique features of the tumor, such as specific genes and proteins present. These tests will help your doctor identify the subtype of cancer, which will help determine the best course of treatment. Your doctor can answer questions about your test results.

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