Breast Lump: What Should I Do?

Breasts contain tissues of varying consistency due to fatty, glandular and connective tissue. You may feel some lumpiness during changes in your menstrual cycle caused by extra fluid in your breasts. Breast tissue also changes with age, becoming fattier and less dense as you get older.

A breast lump is a mass that develops in the breast which may be discovered during self-examination (read our article on Breast Self-Examination Technique).

Causes of breast lumps

  • Fibroadenoma
  • Fibrocystic disease
  • Breast cysts
  • Milk cyst (galactocele)
  • Mastitis (common during breast feeding)
  • Lipoma
  • Breast cancer

How are breast lumps assessed by the doctors?

Most patients should have a TRIPLE ASSESSMENT which consists of:

  1. Clinical assessment by the doctor
  2. Imaging (ultrasound and/or mammography)
  3. Pathology (cytology and/or histology)

How are breast lumps diagnosed?

Most breast lumps are benign and not cancerous. Proving that a lump is either cancer or not cancer requires some (or all) of the following imaging tests:

Image source: Getty Images
  1. Mammogram: Mammography uses low dose x-rays to examine the breasts taking either two single images or two tomosynthesis images known as 3-D mammography (read our article on Breast Mammogram – What to Expect). 
  2. Ultrasound: Breast ultrasound uses sound waves to create pictures of the inside of the breasts which may be difficult to see with mammography. It can also help to determine whether a breast lump is solid or fluid. 
  3. Ultrasound-guided or Stereotactic (X-ray guided) biopsy: For this procedure, a thin sampling needle is used to remove some tissue from the breast lump for evaluation under a microscope by a Medical Pathologist to give a definite diagnosis by looking for cancer cells.

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