Every month on the same date, you repeat your self-exam as you recline on the bed. Your mind wanders to what is ahead for the day and week, and then, you stop. There’s something just under your finger no bigger than the size of a pea.
Panic doesn’t immediately set in as you’re still trying to make certain that something is really there. Instinctively you exam your other breast. Is the same pea-sized lump on the other one? No? Now you panic.
What to do First
Stay as calm as possible, because the odds that the lump is cancerous are low. It’s much more likely to be a simple clogged duct or other non-cancerous lump. Call your regular doctor, talk to his nurse and explain that you need an appointment immediately. You should not schedule an appointment with a cancer specialist until your doctor is able to perform some tests first.
At the Doctor’s Office
The first thing your doctor will do is repeat the same exam you did. He may tell you that it is simple fibrous tissue, or he may order further testing, such as a mammogram or ultrasound. Once he has those test results in hand, he will decide whether or not you need a biopsy.
Once the results come back, you’ll either breathe a huge sigh of relief and continue life as normal, or your doctor will want the lump biopsied. If he wants a biopsy, again, try not to panic. The majority of biopsies do not result in a diagnosis of breast cancer.
Depending on the size of your breasts, your doctor may be able to perform a biopsy with a simple needle insertion. If your breasts are large and dense, he may recommend a surgical biopsy instead. A surgical biopsy can also be advised if the lump is located is an area where a needle would have a more difficult time reaching.
Needle biopsies last about 30 minutes and can be performed in an outpatient setting. Surgical biopsies last a bit longer, and must be done in a hospital setting where you will receive light sedation. Both procedures withdraw a small sample of the lump and surrounding tissue. You will receive the results on a later date after the pathologist has examined the sample.
If the biopsy results are negative, again you may continue to live your life as before. Keep performing your monthly exams, as you now better understand the importance of self-exams.
If the biopsy returns a positive result, the pathology report will tell you whether the cancer is localized, the type to remain in one spot, or if the cancer has spread, or could spread, to other cells. The pathology report also stages the cancer at 0, I, II, III or IV, and will further indicate a subset number that sets out the treatment plan for your specific type of breast cancer.
The Good News
In 2010, there were 2.5 million breast cancer survivors. If you know anyone who has had breast cancer, or have seen celebrities report that they’ve had breast cancer, you may not even have known they were ill. Treatment protocols have become so advanced that many women no longer suffer through difficult symptoms including hair loss, weight loss or vomiting that used to occur with many treatments. You have done your exams regularly and more than likely caught the cancer early.
At 27 my doctor found a small lump on my left breast and because of my family history in which my maternal and paternal grandmothers were both diagnosed with breast cancer (only 1 survived) my doctor immediately scheduled me for an ultrasound and mammogram. I usually do my breast exams once a month but somehow I didn’t catch that one. Therefore, because of the size of my breast I had to have a surgical biopsy which later determined that my lump was indeed a fibroid cyst. Although I was able to leave after the surgery I wouldn't actually say that light Anastasia was used, I heard my doctor count to 2…….and then they woke me up and said it was over. But defiantly press the issue in finding out what’s going on with your body.
I have had breast lumps since my 15th b-day. I am 29 and the lumps remained unchanged until my pregnancy. I have two fibroedenoma in my left breast and four tiny fibroedenomas in my right. The fibroedenomas are benign breast masses made up of glandular tissue. Every two years I get a breast ultrasound to make sure nothing changes. Nothing did change until I became pregnant with my son. I was advised by several specialists to observe and not remove the fibroedenomas unless I wanted to for cosmetic reasons. However, after the pregnancy and breastfeeding, the breast masses have grown into the size of golf balls. I have to wait 6 months after breastfeeding to have the lumps removed. So…I will hopefully stop breastfeeding this week. Baby boy is six months, he is going to try some formula tomorrow. I have also had several biopsies over the years. My grandmother died from a very aggressive form of breast cancer. I do not play games when it comes to my health. The biopsies were completely painless. I drove myself home from the last ones. I even put on a swimsuit and went in the pool that evening. Bottom line, take care of yourself and don't be afraid of what you don't know.
I've had breast cysts aspirated and needle biopsies (localized and later surgical). The results were benign and like the article says it's business as usual. Please don't dismiss lumps. Also keep the faith, God is in the restoration business.
My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and so when I found a lump in my breast I was really worried. I'm 19 so they didn't do a mammogram. My ob/gyn said that because of the way it felt, it was most likely benign. She did the biopsy, which was was really quick and painless, and the results showed that it was just a fibroid cyst that is really common in women my age. If it starts to bother me at all or grow then I can have it removed, but I chose not to at the time because it doesn't give me any problems.
I just had two benign cysts removed from my breasts. I was scared when I got the abnormal mammogram results..All women should over 40 (esp) should have a mammogram. DON'T OPT FOR THE LIQUID extraction biopsy.Sorry.My mother had this and she ended up dying from breast cancer. Instead of having the cyst biopsied/removed and studied…the aspiration revealed nothing. Ladies, if they find a cyst, get it removed and biopsed to be safe.
I'm 35 years old and I had to have a biopsy which did, in fact, turn out to be cancer. I did regular self breast exams so I knew very well what my breast tissue felt like "normally." Every woman's breast tissue is different so it helps to know what's normal for you. As a result, when I found something that I knew wasn't supposed to be there, the red flag went up and I went to see my ob/gyn who sent me for a mammogram and ultrasound, which ultimately led to my biopsy and diagnosis. It's been over a year and I'm a thriving breast cancer survivor. 🙂
i second following up if the lump doesn't change after your period. last year i went for my annual check up and the doctor said she felt something. mind you i was 26. she told me it was likely nothing but scheduled me for an ultrasound. it turns out that like my mother i have dense breast (more glandular). at my moms age she's had to get biopsies done but for me they were fine with seeing nothing on the screen. also, it was a week before my period so i was also scheduled to check back in a few weeks later. all this to say that if you doctor DOESN'T require you to do all that, especially if you're an older woman please, PLEASE request it.
Just wanted to add my 2 cents . . .
I would advise that if you discover a breast lump which does NOT change with your menstrual cycle, that you insist on having an imaging study (or studies- Mammogram, Ultrasound) performed to get a better look at the nature of the lump. A benign fibrocystic change occurs in many women which causes cyst-like structures in the breast. These are palpable and should change with your cycle.
A lesion which does not change deserves to be examined in more detail than by a clinician.
I am speaking as a health care professional AND as a person whose aunt was misdiagnosed and ended up having breast cancer. She was told that her breast lump was totally benign ( based on a physical exam). Once the lump got to be the size of a small plum, it was biopsied and found to be cancer. She is an extremely private person and never told anyone in our family about this until after she was diagnosed. Fortunately, she had surgery and chemo and is cancer free.
She is lucky to be alive.
So, PLEASE DO NOT allow yourself to be brushed off and told that your lump is nothing WITHOUT a detailed look at it.
Yes, I had to have a small mass biopsied about a year and a half ago. Getting the call from my ob-gyn informing me that they required more "studies" on one breast after a routine mamm was very scary indeed. Had additional scans and a needle biopsy that was still inconclusive. Had to have the mass removed for more "studies" to be absolutely sure. After about a month –from the time my ob-gyn first called with abnormal mamm results, surgery and the results meeting with breast surgeon after lump removal and report from pathology–I finally learned that the mass was BENIGN. A fibroedenoma sometimes called "breast mice". No further treatment was required. What a relief! But I must admit I still get nervous around annual mammogram time.