Breast cancer rates are higher for American women than the rates of any other cancer other than lung. Recent statistics show 1 in 8 women, or 12%, will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetimes, and that risk goes up if you have family history. With statistics like these, finding a lump of any kind in your breast is frightening. Yet, it doesn’t have to be. The doctors at Women’s Medical Associates of Nashville see breast lumps every day, and we can guide you through what’s normal and what’s not.
Studies show about 80% of breast lumps are benign. Modern diagnostic tools such as ultrasounds will help your doctor determine what kind of lump you have and how to treat it. If she does find cancer or suspicious cells within the lump, catching it early increases your chances of survival. Call the doctor when you find a lump. Never schedule a mammogram or see a surgeon on your own – you don’t know that lump is cancer, and seeing a surgeon will fill your mind with frightening possibilities you may not need to explore.
You may not need a mammogram, particularly if you’re young (in your 20s or 30s). Your doctor will likely schedule an ultrasound to look for suspicious material. Before the ultrasound, she may perform a manual breast exam. Keep in mind that cancerous lumps are generally hard and immovable, so if you can move the lump, it’s likely benign. You could have a benign tumor called a fibroadenoma or an intraductal papilloma, which is a small benign growth in your milk duct.
During the initial evaluation, the radiologist may decide to perform a simply breast biopsy, especially if your lump or lesion isn’t picked up on the ultrasound. If cancer is found, you’ll undergo a breast MRI to determine the extent of the disease. Once you have a solid cancer diagnosis, ask your oncologist about the specific treatment for your type of breast cancer so you can have all the information possible. Get a second or third opinion if you want one, and ask about combining traditional cancer treatments with natural remedies if that’s what your comfortable with. Make sure you have the nutritional, emotional, and spiritual support you need, and don’t let your doctor flood you with information. It’s a good idea to come to your first appointment with a specific list of questions. Any others that arise can be answered as you go through treatment.