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What do my tests mean?

After your biopsy you will visit your surgeon or the doctor and be given the results of your tests plus an explanation of the results. You will be able to learn a certain amount about your diagnosis. You will normally be told:

  • whether you have a benign or malignant tumour
  • how aggressive the tumour is (the grade)
  • the approximate size of the tumour
  • whether the tumour is oestrogen positive or negative
If you want to know more about the full range of tests including surgery and removal of lymph nodes, go to understand the tests

Key points

  • You will not know if it has spread further through the breast or to the lymph nodes
  • You will need to understand as much as possible about your diagnosis and the choices you have for your particular circumstances. At this stage you will focus on whether you will have breast conserving treatment or a mastectomy
  • You will not be told what follow up treatment is required as it is too early to tell with any degree of certainty

Tumour Grade

The information from the tests will also be used by the pathologist to 'grade' your cancer. Grade refers to the similarity of cancer cells to normal cells. The more similar cancer cells are to normal cells, the more likely it is that treatment will be successful. There are three grades of tumours:

  • Grade 1 cancers are similar to normal cells and able to be successfully treated.
  • Grade 2 cancers are somewhat similar to normal cells and are associated with moderately successful treatment.
  • Grade 3 cancers are not similar to normal cells and less able to be treated successfully.

Size

The biopsy should be able to provide an indication of the size of the tumour and how well defined it is. It will not be able to identify spread from the tumour.

A tumour under 2 cm is considered relatively small.

Number

The biopsy and ultrasound together can identify more than one tumour. However it is not possible to know for certain whether all tumours have been identified.

Oestrogen receptors

The biopsy will also tell whether the growth of the tumour is influenced by oestrogen or not. Generally receptors that are receptor positive respond well to treatments such as Tamoxifen that block the effects of hormones on the cancer.

 



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