Additional Tests

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UCLA Health’s Breast care specialists develop a personalized plan to help you recover. For more information, reach a cancer care specialist at 888-662-8252

Additional testing may be necessary to determine if cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. Not all tests are indicated for every woman with breast cancer. Your doctors will inform you if any of the following tests are necessary. After learning that you have breast cancer, you may need other tests to help choose the best treatment for you.

Breast Imaging

Lymph node biopsy

Surgeons use a method called sentinel lymph node biopsy to remove the lymph node most likely to have breast cancer cells. If cancer cells are not found in the sentinel node, you may be able to avoid further lymph node removal.

Removing additional lymph nodes to check for cancer cells is called axillary dissection.

CT scan

An X-ray machine connected to a computer takes a series of detailed pictures of your chest, abdomen and/or pelvis. You may be given contrast material either orally or intravenously, which is used to highlight abnormal areas of the body. The pictures from a CT scan can show cancer that has spread to the lungs or liver.


A strong magnet linked to a computer is used to create detailed pictures of your breasts. Sometimes, contrast material is used to make abnormal areas show up more clearly on the picture. Bone scan

Your doctor may inject a small amount of a radioactive substance, called a tracer, into one of your blood vessels. This substance travels through the bloodstream and collects in the bones. Higher amounts of the tracer collects in areas where there is cancer. A scanner is then used to detect and measure radioactivity in the tracers, and to create images of the bones to determine if the cancer has spread there.

PET-CT scan

Before a PET-CT scan, you will receive a small injection of radioactive sugar, that will circulate throughout your body and accumulate in cancerous areas that consume more sugar than normal cells. The radioactive sugar emits signals that are detected by the PET scanner and converted into images of your body. These pictures are then analyzed to determine if cancer is present in other parts of the body.