What If I Find A Lump In My Breast
If you find a lump or another change in your breast, talk to your doctor or nurse as soon as you can. It doesnt necessarily mean you have cancer there are lots of other things, like cysts or infections, that can cause lumps or other changes. But its really important to get checked out just in case. Your doctor can do a breast exam or a mammogram to see if theres something wrong.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging May Be Used To Screen Women Who Have A High Risk Of Breast Cancer
MRI is a procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging . MRI does not use any x-rays and the woman is not exposed to radiation.
MRI may be used as a screening test for women who have a high risk of breast cancer. Factors that put women at high risk include the following:
- Certain gene changes, such as changes in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
- A family history with breast cancer.
- Certain geneticsyndromes, such as Li-Fraumeni or Cowden syndrome.
An MRI is more likely than mammography to find a breast mass that is not cancer.
Women with dense breasts who have supplemental screening show higher rates of breast cancer detection, but there is limited evidence about whether this leads to better health outcomes.
Getting A Second Opinion
Getting a second opinion during your cancer care process is common. Its a good idea to get your second opinion before starting treatment, because a second opinion can alter your diagnosis and thus your treatment. However, you can get a second opinion at any point during treatment.
During your cancer care, consider asking for a second opinion in these instances:
- after your pathology report is complete
- before surgery
- after your staging work is complete, if you are uncomfortable with the treatment plan your doctor recommends
- while planning treatments following surgery
- during treatment, if you believe there may be a reason to change the course of your treatment
- after completing treatment, especially if you didnt ask for a second opinion prior to starting treatment
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American Cancer Society Breast Self Exam Instructions
The best time for breast self examination is about a week after your period ends, when your breasts are not swollen or tender. If you are not having regular periods, do BSE on the same day every month.
- Lie down with a pillow under your right shoulder and place your right arm behind your head.
- Use the finger pads of the three middle fingers on your left hand to feel for lumps in the right breast.
- Press firmly enough to know how your breast feels. A firm ridge in the lower curve of each breast is normal. If you’re not sure how hard to press, talk with your doctor or nurse.
- Move around the breast in a circular, up and down line, or wedge pattern. Be sure to do it the same way every time, check the entire breast area, and remember how your breast feels from month to month.
- Repeat the exam on your left breast, using the finger pads of the right hand.
- If you find any changes, see your doctor right away.
- Repeat the examination of both breasts while standing, with one arm behind your head. The upright position makes it easier to check the upper and outer part of the breasts . This is where about half of breast cancers are found. You may want to do the standing part of the BSE while you are in the shower. Some breast changes can be felt more easily when your skin is wet and soapy.
- Right after your BSE, check your breasts in front of a mirror for any dimpling of the skin, changes in the nipple, redness, or swelling.
What Is Breast Cancer
Cells in the body normally divide only when new cells are needed. Sometimes, cells in a part of the body grow and divide out of control, which creates a mass of tissue called a tumor. If the cells that are growing out of control are normal cells, the tumor is called benign. If, however, the cells that are growing out of control are abnormal and don’t function like the body’s normal cells, the tumor is called malignant .
Cancers are named after the part of the body from which they originate. Breast cancer originates in the breast tissue. Like other cancers, breast cancer can invade and grow into the tissue surrounding the breast. It can also travel to other parts of the body and form new tumors, a process called metastasis.
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How To Get Brca Genetic Testing
Genetic counseling is recommended for those who are interested in being tested for breast cancer gene mutations. You can talk to a doctor about getting a referral to a genetic counselor, who can help determine whether genetic testing would make sense based on family history and risk factors. Since many genetic tests only look for one specific gene mutation, the counselor can often help determine which mutations to test for.
The genetic test itself simply involves taking a small sample of blood or saliva, which is sent to a lab for analysis. Results can take several weeks or months.
Genetic testing results are not always clear-cut:
- A test result can be positive, meaning that the patient does carry the gene mutation.
- A negative test result indicates that they do not have that particular known gene mutation. It does not, however, rule out the possibility of having mutations in other genes. It also does not rule out the possibility of developing breast cancer. Most breast cancer cases are not hereditary, so everyone should still have an early detection plan.
- Genetic test results can also be uncertain or ambiguous. An ambiguous test result means that a mutation has been found on the gene, but it is not yet known whether that particular mutation has any effect on the chances of developing breast cancer.
- Someone is either negative or positive. Over time, a person cannot go from being negative to being positive or vice versa for the specific gene mutations they were tested for.
How Cancer Is Diagnosed
X-rays use low doses of radiation to create pictures of the inside of your body.
If you have a symptom or a screening test result that suggests cancer, your doctor must find out whether it is due to cancer or some other cause. The doctor may start by asking about your personal and family medical history and do a physical exam. The doctor also may order lab tests, imaging tests , or other tests or procedures. You may also need a biopsy, which is often the only way to tell for sure if you have cancer.
This page covers tests that are often used to help diagnose cancer. Depending on the symptoms you have, you may have other tests, too. To learn more about how specific cancers are diagnosed, see the PDQ® cancer treatment summaries for adult and childhood cancers. These summaries include detailed information about and pictures of diagnostic tests and procedures for each specific type of cancer.
On This Page
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How To Check For Breast Cancer
Doru Paul, MD, is triple board-certified in medical oncology, hematology, and internal medicine. He is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and attending physician in the Department of Hematology and Oncology at the New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center.
It’s important that every woman knows how to do a breast self-examination , as it can help in early detection of breast cancer, such as lumps, nipple changes, and more.
Being familiar with what is normal for you will make it easier to recognize any new developments. Furthermore, knowing what’s not normal for anyone can help prompt you to bring such issues to your doctor’s attention, should you notice them during your BSE.
This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.
How Can You Detect Breast Cancer Early
You can detect breast cancer early by performing breast self-exams, the process of seeing and feeling for any changes in the breast area.
Currently, the American Cancer Society does not recommend breast-self exams as part of routine breast cancer screening because there is little evidence that they are effective in finding breast cancer early in people who also get regular mammograms. However, they do recognize that it can improve breast self-awareness. On the other hand, the American Society of Breast Surgeons still considers breast self-exams essential.
Knowing the normal size, shape, and appearance of your breasts will help you recognize symptoms when they occur, such as:
- Hard breast lumps or thickening that is different from other surrounding breast tissue
- Redness of the skin on the breast or nipple
- Dimpling or pitting of the breast, similar to the skin of an orange
- Skin retraction
- Bloody or clear fluid discharge from the nipple
- An area that is distinctly different from other areas around the breast
- Changes in size, shape, appearance, or feel of the breast or nipple
- A newly inverted nipple
- Peeling, scaling, crusting, or flaking of the areola or the breast
“While non-cancerous lumps are often rubbery and soft that move around like a marble, cancerous lumps tend to be harder and don’t move around as much,” says Abe.”Although most cancers will feel hard and relatively immobile, they don’t all feel that way.”
Here are the major risk factors for breast cancer:
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How Can I Detect My Breast Cancer Early
The best way for young women to find breast cancer early is to be breast self-aware. Become familiar with your breasts: their shape, size and what they feel like. Learn what is normal for you. Sometimes your breasts may change throughout your monthly cycle. If you are pregnant or nursing, your breasts will change even more dramatically. If you find anything unusual, see your doctor immediately and insist on a diagnosis. In general, women should have a yearly clinical breast examination by a doctor beginning at age 20 and start having annual mammograms beginning at age 45.
Imaging Tests Have Risks And Costs
The biggest risk is that imaging tests expose you to radiation. The effects of radiation add up over your lifetime and can increase your risk of cancer.
Imaging tests can also show a false positive. This means a test shows something unusual, but after more testing, is not a problem. False positives can lead to stress, more tests, and a delay in getting needed treatment.
Imaging tests can also add thousands of dollars to your treatment costs. Not all insurance companies pay for them for early-stage breast cancer.
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Mammogram And Breast Ultrasound
If you have symptoms and have been referred to a specialist breast unit by a GP, you’ll probably be invited to have a mammogram, which is an X-ray of your breasts. You may also need an ultrasound scan.
If cancer was detected through the NHS Breast Screening Programme, you may need another mammogram or ultrasound scan.
Your doctor may suggest that you only have a breast ultrasound scan if you’re under the age of 35. This is because younger women have denser breasts, which means a mammogram is not as effective as ultrasound in detecting cancer.
Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce an image of the inside of your breasts, showing any lumps or abnormalities.
Your breast specialist may also suggest a breast ultrasound if they need to know whether a lump in your breast is solid or contains liquid.
Find out more about breast screening.
Why Might I Need A Breast Ultrasound
A breast ultrasound is most often done to find out if a problem found by a mammogram or physical exam of the breast may be a cyst filled with fluid or a solid tumor.
Breast ultrasound is not usually done to screen for breast cancer. This is because it may miss some early signs of cancer. An example of early signs that may not show up on ultrasound are tiny calcium deposits called microcalcifications.
Ultrasound may be used if you:
Have particularly dense breast tissue. A mammogram may not be able to see through the tissue.
Are pregnant. Mammography uses radiation, but ultrasound does not. This makes it safer for the fetus.
Are younger than age 25
Your healthcare provider may also use ultrasound to look at nearby lymph nodes, help guide a needle during a biopsy, or to remove fluid from a cyst.
Your healthcare provider may have other reasons to recommend a breast ultrasound.
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How Do They Check For Breast Cancer With Implants
Mammography for women with breast implants is described by the American Cancer Society as a challenge, Breast implants are a challenge for mammogram screening.. X-rays used to image the breasts cannot show the breast tissue that lies over or beneath silicone or saline implants because they cannot penetrate them well enough.
Does A Benign Breast Condition Mean That I Have A Higher Risk Of Getting Breast Cancer
Benign breast conditions rarely increase your risk of breast cancer. Some women have biopsies that show a condition called hyperplasia . This condition increases your risk only slightly.
When the biopsy shows hyperplasia and abnormal cells, which is a condition called atypical hyperplasia, your risk of breast cancer increases somewhat more. Atypical hyperplasia occurs in about 5% of benign breast biopsies.
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How Much Do Anastrozole And Exemestane Lower The Risk Of Breast Cancer
Studies have shown that both anastrozole and exemestane can lower the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women who are at increased risk of the disease.
In one large study, taking anastrozole for five years lowered the risk of developing estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer by 53 percent. In another study, taking exemestane for three years lowered the risk of developing estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer by 65 percent.
The most common side effects seen with anastrazole and exemestane are joint pains, decreased bone density, and symptoms of menopause .
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/31/2018.
If You Have An Abnormal Cbe:
If youre under 30 and your CBE reveals a lump, your doctor may recommend starting with observation. This means waiting 1-2 menstrual periods to see if the lump goes away on its own, then getting checked again. If youre not comfortable waiting, let your doctor know or ask for a second opinion.
If youre 30 or older and your CBE reveals a lump or other change, the most likely next step is a follow-up mammogram and maybe a breast ultrasound.
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Where Can I Go To Get Screened
You can get screened for breast cancer at a clinic, hospital, or doctors office. If you want to be screened for breast cancer, call your doctors office. They can help you schedule an appointment.
Most health insurance plans are required to cover screening mammograms every one to two years for women beginning at age 40 with no out-of-pocket cost .
Are you worried about the cost? CDC offers free or low-cost mammograms. Find out if you qualify.
What Should I Do If I Find A Lump
Donât panic. It could be many things other than cancer. But do check in with your doctorâs office if you notice any new breast changes, such as:
- An area that is different from any other area on either breast
- A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm that lasts through your menstrual cycle
- A change in the size, shape, or contour of the breast
- A mass or lump
- A marble-like area under the skin
- A change in the feel or appearance of the skin on the breast or nipple
- Bloody or clear fluid discharge from the nipples
- Redness of the skin on the breast or nipple
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What If You Have Already Had Breast Cancer
If you had early-stage breast cancer and have no signs that your cancer has returned, you may not need imaging or tumor marker tests. It is not likely that your cancer has returned. These tests usually do not help you live longer. And they can lead to a wrong diagnosis and unneeded treatments.
Usually, the best way to monitor your cancer is to have a mammogram each year and a physical exam every six months. And watch for symptoms, such as a new lump or pain in the breast. Studies show that most breast cancer that returns is found through symptoms, not imaging tests.
What Happens If I Find A Lump
“If a person feels a new lump in their breasts, they should absolutely inform their physician,” says Fishman. If you discover some symptoms, breast changes that concern you, or changes that persist after your menstrual cycle, see a doctor for evaluation.
Younger women are more likely to have dense breasts, the appearance of having more dense tissue than fatty tissue in the breast when viewed on a mammogram. This is a risk factor for breast cancer because dense tissue can hide cancers. The difference between a lump and having dense breasts is that dense breast tissue will often feel rubbery and usually without discrete edges around, says Abe.
“Not all breast lumps are indicative of breast cancer,” says Fishman. Most lumps are usually not cancer, and the most common benign and non-cancerous lumps are cysts and fibroadenomas.
According to Abe, “cancerous lumps are rarely painful, while benign, non-cancerous lumps can be painful. Still, not all lumps feel the same, so notify your doctor of any breast mass that doesn’t feel normal. If you find a lump, the next step is to get a mammogram or ultrasound to better characterize it, she says.
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