Investigations and diagnosis

There are a number of investigations and scans patients may have in order to find out whether they have a breast cancer.

These investigations allow the breast care team to make a diagnosis and see the extent of any disease.

The symptomatic clinics held at Antrim Hospital offer a “one stop” service where it is anticipated that tests including mammogram, ultrasound, FNA (fine needle aspiration) or core biopsy will be performed on the same day if required.

You can read more about these tests below;

  • mammogram – an x-ray of the breast
  • ultrasound– a test that uses sound waves to examine the breasts
  • fine needle aspiration– a simple, painless procedure to remove a small tissue sample from the breast
  • core biopsy– takes a core sample of tissue from the lump. You may have this test under a local anaesthetic.

For more information on the investigations and diagnosis of breast cancer, visit the Macmillan Cancer Support website.


Your investigation results will be discussed at the breast cancer multi-disciplinary meeting. The team will review all aspects of your care and recommend an appropriate treatment plan. A member of the team will discuss this with you.

The breast care nurse will spend as much time with you as you wish and will talk about your treatment and/or surgery.

Staging and grading

Your breast specialist needs certain information about the cancer to decide on the most appropriate treatment for you. This includes the stage of the cancer, its grade and whether it has receptors for hormones, proteins or both.

For more information please visit the cancer staging and grading section on the Macmillan Cancer Support website.

Breast Care Nurses

Specialist nurses in breast care are present at these clinics to provide information, advice, education and support to people attending the clinic.

For patients with a diagnosis of breast cancer the breast care nurse can also play a vital role and provide specialist support as a ‘key worker’. They will give patients time to ask questions and to talk to them about how their diagnosis is affecting them. Breast care nurses provide this specialist care to patients from the moment of referral and continue to offer support throughout their care.

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