Purpose: Photoacoustic (PA) imaging is a recently developed breast cancer imaging technique. In order to enhance successful clinical implementation, we quantified the potential clinical value of different scenarios incorporating PA imaging by means of multi-criteria analysis. From this analysis, the most promising area of application for PA imaging in breast cancer diagnosis is determined, and recommendations are provided to optimize the design of PA imaging. - Methods: The added value of PA imaging was assessed in two areas of application in the diagnostic track. These areas include PA imaging as an alternative to x-ray mammography and ultrasonography in early stage diagnosis, and PA imaging as an alternative to Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) in later stage diagnosis. The added value of PA imaging was assessed with respect to four main criteria (costs, diagnostic performance, patient comfort and risks). An expert panel composed of medical, technical and management experts was asked to assess the relative importance of the criteria in comparing the alternative diagnostic devices. The judgments of the experts were quantified based on the validated pairwise comparison technique of the Analytic Hierarchy Process, a technique for multi-criteria analysis. Sensitivity analysis was applied to account for the uncertainty of the outcomes. - Results: Among the considered alternatives, PA imaging is the preferred technique due to its non-invasiveness, low cost and low risks. However, the experts do not expect large differences in diagnostic performance. The outcomes suggest that design changes to improve the diagnostic performance of PA imaging should focus on the quality of the reconstruction algorithm, detector sensitivity, detector bandwidth and the number of wavelengths used. - Conclusion: The AHP method was useful in recommending the most promising area of application in the diagnostic track for which PA imaging can be implemented, this being early diagnosis, as a substitute for the combined use of x-ray mammography and ultrasonography.