Testing for the classic hereditary breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, has been available and widely offered since their discovery in the 1990s. However, new technologies in genetic testing have recently uncovered information about other genes linked to hereditary breast cancer.
Explore the Breast Evaluation Center
The Cancer Center’s Avon Foundation Comprehensive Breast Evaluation Center focuses exclusively on breast health and breast cancer detection. This program offers comprehensive, expert evaluation for:
- Breast lumps
- Abnormal mammograms
- Nipple discharge
- Other breast problems
- Male breast cancer
- Women at risk of breast cancer
Because of our exclusive focus on breast health, we offer an expertise available at only a few other centers nationwide. Our entire team, including pathologists, radiologists, surgeons and nurses, specializes exclusively in diagnosing and treating breast disorders, particularly breast cancer, with the latest, most accurate and least invasive techniques available.
The Avon Foundation Comprehensive Breast Evaluation Center offers patients:
- The most advanced imaging technologies, such as digital mammography, digital tomosynthesis, and breast MRI
- Minimally-invasive surgical diagnostics, like fine needle aspiration, that extract the smallest amount of tissue necessary to make an accurate diagnosis
- Computerized breast cancer risk assessment in collaboration with the certified genetic counselors at the Cancer Center's Center for Cancer Risk Assessment.
Expertise in Diagnosing and Staging Cancers
Staging is the process of determining the extent or location of any cancer. Quick and accurate diagnosis and staging of cancer are key to defining an appropriate treatment plan. Each patient seen at the Avon Foundation Comprehensive Breast Evaluation Center receives a customized plan that incorporates diagnostic approaches most appropriate for their condition. This plan is developed and delivered by a team of experts who focus only on diagnosing and staging breast cancers, and who are skilled at evaluating the important features, such as molecular differences, of each patient’s tumor.
Many of our specialists are consulted from around the country and the world for their breast cancer pathology expertise. We use a full range of sophisticated imaging and surgical techniques to determine the location, stage and type of breast cancer. Among these procedures are:
- Digital mammography, a mammogram that uses x-ray detectors and computer assistance to create the image
- Computer aided detection (CAD), a technique in mammographic exams that identifies regions requiring further analysis
- Ultrasound, a noninvasive procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to image an internal body structure
- Breast MRI, which uses a powerful magnetic field and computer assistance to produce detailed pictures of the breast and regional lymph nodes
- Digital tomosynthesis, which produces a 3-D image of the breast tissue
- Blood tests, chest X-rays, CT scans of the bones, abdomen or brain, PET imaging and MRIs of other parts of the body all may be used as part of the detection and diagnostic process
Excellence in Surgical Diagnostics
Your diagnostic plan may include a surgical procedure to determine if a lump seen in an image is cancerous, and if so, how far the cancer has advanced. Among the procedures we use are:
- Fine needle aspiration/biopsy, which involves a very thin needle inserted into the breast to withdraw a small amount of tissue for laboratory examination
- Stereotactic and ultrasound guided biopsies, in which surgeons use imaging technology to guide them during the biopsy
- Core biopsy, similar to fine needle biopsy, uses a slightly larger needle and is usually done under local anesthesia
- Needle-localized breast biopsies, in which the surgeon uses a tiny wire to remove a small amount of tissue from the breast area that looks abnormal on an x-ray
- Excisional biopsy, which removes the abnormal tissue and a margin of healthy tissue for examination by a pathologist
- Sentinel node biopsy, a technique to identify, remove and examine the single lymph node most likely to indicate whether cancer has spread beyond the breast
- Computerized risk assessment to determine risk of developing breast cancer
Detecting Cancer Earlier through Research
Breast cancer detection research is focused on identifying and characterizing novel genes that are central to both normal development and cancer; this effort is designed to uncover new ways to determine risk and treatment of breast cancer. Women at high risk are followed closely with the latest imaging technology and offered risk reducing medications or surgical procedures as appropriate. In addition, our experts are engaged in ongoing research to refine and improve diagnostic techniques and to better determine the impact of treatment earlier.
Many of the specialists and sub-specialists in our program are involved in research to improve the diagnosis and treatments for breast cancer. These studies include:
- Investigations to identify more ways to use MRI for women with prior breast cancer
- 3-D imaging of breast tissue using tomosynthesis
- Research to better understand the molecular features of individual breast cancers
- Identifying through genetic signatures which breast cancers will respond to hormone therapy
- Gene-expression profiling to identify which women are at higher risk of recurrence and therefore may benefit from more aggressive treatment
- Targeted therapies for tumors with genetic mutations identified through genotyping
Meet the Team
Each patient evaluated and treated here for breast concerns benefits from the hospital's wide network of specialists and treatment options. Individuals needing breast cancer treatment are cared for by a multi-disciplinary team of oncology experts at our Center for Breast Cancer. The radiologists and pathologists who diagnose and stage breast cancer are an integral part of this care team.
- Co-Director, Avon Comprehensive Breast Evaluation Center
- Co-Director, Newton Wellesley Breast Center
Patient Education & Resources
We help to identify families that may have a hereditary breast or ovarian cancer syndrome.
- Sep | 11 | 2020
A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast that can find cancer before it can be felt by you or your doctor. Learn more in this video from Dr. Michelle Specht, Breast Surgical Oncologist at the Mass General Cancer Center.
- Oct | 19 | 2019
Mass General Cancer Center’s Dr. Bev Moy urges women to speak with their primary care physician about when they should be screened for breast cancer.
- Patient Story
- Mar | 23 | 2018
Lauren Corduck and her father Bob Cooperstein speak about how their lives have been impacted by having tested positive for a BRCA gene mutation.
- Patient Story
- Aug | 29 | 2018
We previously shared Anne's story, from Breast Cancer diagnosis through treatment, but here Anne tells her story in her own words, and shares how she is doing now.