A step-by-step guide:
1. I’ve found a breast lump. Now what?
First of all, do not panic. Most lumps are not cancerous. They are actually very common, especially in premenopausal women. They usually go away by the end of the menstrual cycle. But do not ignore any change in your breast, either. The best advice is to see your doctor.
2. What will my doctor do?
Your doctor should begin by asking about your personal and family medical history. He/she will
ask you about what you are feeling or seeing. Show exactly where you noticed the lump or other change in your breast. A doctor can tell a lot about a lump from its size, texture and the way it moves
within the breast. Benign (not cancer) lumps often feel different from cancerous lumps.
3. What about a diagnostic mammogram or ultrasound?
A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. A diagnostic mammogram is used to examine lumps or changes in the breast. It includes more views of your breast than a screening mammogram. Ultrasound is another way of looking inside the breast by using sound waves instead of X-rays. It
can help tell the difference between normal and abnormal breast lumps. Ultrasound can tell the
difference between a liquid-filled cyst and a solid mass. It is often used in addition to a mammogram.
4. Can fluid be removed?
Sometimes an abnormal lump is a liquid-filled sac called a cyst. Doctors can collapse these cysts by inserting a very thin needle and drawing out the fluid. This is called a cyst aspiration and can be
done in a doctor’s office. It is generally not painful because the breast is numb. Cysts rarely contain
cancer cells. If the cyst does not collapse all the way, or if the fluid in the cyst contains blood, the doctor may examine the cells and fluid from the cyst with a microscope. Based on what is found, your doctor may order a follow-up mammogram, ultrasound or a biopsy.
5. What about MRI?
Magnetic resonance image (MRI) uses a large magnet and radio waves to create an image of the
breast. It can sometimes detect cancers in dense breasts that are not seen on mammograms. MRI is often used with mammography for screening women at a high risk of breast cancer.
These tests give one of three results:
• the breast change is nothing to worry about; return to regular clinical breast exams, and yearly mammograms if you are over 40
• the abnormal tissue is probably not cancer, but return for a re-check in 4 to 6 months or see a surgeon for a second opinion
• a biopsy is needed to tell whether or not the breast change is cancer