American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

There are a number of preoperative tests and imaging that can be performed prior to diagnosis.

Self-Breast Exam

Check your breasts on a regular basis. There are five steps to a breast self-examination.


There are four kinds of mammography:

  • Screening mammogram
  • Diagnostic mammogram
  • 3-dimensional/3-D mammogram (digital tomosynthesis)
  • Digital mammogram 

Breast Ultrasound

Ultrasound uses sound waves to show pictures of the breast. Ultrasound can show the difference between fluid-filled cysts (usually not cancerous) and tumors.

Breast MRI

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses magnetic fields instead of X rays to show very clear breast images and tumor size.


If a tumor is found on imaging, a biopsy is the only way to confirm breast cancer. A biopsy is the removal of tissue to examine cells. There are different types of biopsies.

Keep reading to learn more about each of these preoperative tests and imaging.