skip to main content
Call our Helpline:
1800 500 258

Breast cancer pathology

During your breast cancer surgery, your surgeon will remove the tumour and a small amount of healthy tissue surrounding it. This will be sent to a pathology laboratory for testing. The results of these tests will provide important information such as whether all the cancer has been removed, how big the tumour is, and how fast the cancer cells are growing. This information helps your medical team to decide the best treatment options for you.

To help you understand breast cancer pathology further, BCNA has created a Breast cancer pathology fact sheet which can be downloaded or ordered and gives you access to a glossary of pathology terms. 

Gene profile tests

Your surgeon or medical oncologist may talk to you about gene profile tests such as Oncotype DX, Prosigna, EndoPredict or MammaPrint. 

These tests assess a sample of your tumour to predict the likelihood of the cancer recurring or the likely response of the cancer to treatment (chemotherapy or hormone therapy). If there is a high risk of recurrence, your doctor will likely recommend chemotherapy. If there is a low risk of recurrence, you may be able to avoid chemotherapy. Doctors can use this information to help make recommendations about the best treatment for you.

There is currently no Medicare rebate for these tests and the prices can vary up to several thousands of dollars. If you have private health insurance, you may like to ask your insurance fund if they can provide a rebate to you.

Gene profile testing, sometimes also referred to as genomic testing, is only suitable for some types of breast cancer. If you are interested in seeing whether it is appropriate for you, you may like to talk to your breast surgeon or medical oncologist .

Our My Journey information can provide you with more specific information about all the tests please read BCNAs My Journey Genomic Testing.

Breast cancer tissue banks

Before your surgery, you may be asked if you would like to donate some of your breast cancer tissue to a tissue bank.

Tissue banks collect breast cancer samples and information about the women who donate them. This information is used for breast cancer research. If you agree to participate, you will be asked to complete a consent form.

If you have agreed, the pathologist will pass on a small, surplus part of the sample provided by the surgeon.

The tissue bank may use your samples immediately, or they may choose to store, freeze or preserve the sample in paraffin wax for further use. In addition to donating your tissue, you may be asked to provide a blood sample as well as information about your general health.

All tissue banks are bound by rigorous ethical standards, which ensures care and confidentiality for donors.

Find out more by signing up to BCNA's My Journey.