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If a patient displays signs of HER2 (human epidural growth factor receptor 2) positive breast cancer, such as a hard breast lump or dimpled breast skin, a physician may use a variety of diagnostic techniques to identify the source of the symptoms. Most breast abnormalities can be traced to noncancerous conditions, but it is crucial to promptly determine the underlying cause and, if necessary, begin an appropriate course of treatment.

How is breast cancer diagnosed?

In cases where potential signs of breast cancer are present, a mammogram, breast ultrasound or another form of imaging may be conducted to search for additional signs of malignancy and determine if a breast biopsy is necessary to confirm or rule out cancer. During a biopsy, a small amount of tissue is taken from an affected breast and analyzed in a clinical lab to check for cancerous cells.

Identifying the HER2 protein

If diagnostic testing confirms that a patient has breast cancer, a pathologist will pinpoint the specific type of cancer present. This is key to developing an optimal treatment plan, as certain cancers respond differently to certain treatments. Checking for the HER2 protein in the patient’s tissue sample may involve several tests, including an IHC test – which uses antibodies that cause cellular proteins to change color – or a FISH test – which incorporates fluorescent pieces of DNA that cling to HER2 cells.

Moffitt Cancer Center’s Don & Erika Wallace Comprehensive Breast Program offers expert HER2 positive breast cancer diagnostic and treatment services in a single location. If you would like to consult with a Moffitt physician, call 1-888-663-3488 or fill out a new patient registration form online. We welcome patients with or without referrals.