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Dr. Rachel Rucker-SchmidtAnatomic Pathology, Clinical Pathology

Pathology Assessment of Different Types of Breast Cancer Specimens

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Sampling of breast tissue for pathologic evaluation is performed when a lump is felt or if an abnormality is seen on breast imaging.
One type of specimen that can be sampled is a breast biopsy. This is a small core of tissue that is taken from a mass or region of mammographic abnormality, such as distortion or calcifications.
Though the sample size is small, this core can provide a wealth of information to a pathologist, allowing for an initial diagnosis to be made.
If the biopsy reveals cancer, the pathologist will subtype and grade the cancer. This will help the treating clinician know if the tumor is slow-growing (low-grade) or more aggressive (high grade).
The cancer can also be further assessed for hormone receptor expression and HER2/neu status; these allow for different treatment options either before and/or after surgery.
Excision and mastectomy specimens are larger types of specimens that may be taken from the breast for diagnostic or treatment reasons.
The pathologist will assess the tumor size, margin status, response to treatment, and other predictive factors, such as lymphatic invasion, to properly stage the cancer.
All of this important information will be included in a pathology report to help you and your doctor choose the best treatment for your cancer.