Patients may feel “lumps” or a breast “mass” during a breast self-exam and get instant anxiety regarding the idea of cancer. Nearly eighty percent of all breast lumps are benign (noncancerous). Regardless, if a new breast lump is felt a patient should contact their provider to be seen for a clinical breast exam and imaging. In some patients a biopsy may be necessary. Mammogram and ultrasound are often done to evaluate breast masses/lumps. Tomosynthesis or 3D mammography makes it easier to fully evaluate dense breast tissue. An ultrasound uses sound waves to better characterize findings in the breast as suspicious or not suspicious. For suspicious findings, tissue sampling with a core needle biopsy will be performed to evaluate the tissue cells under a microscope (pathology). If cancer cells are detected, a patient will be referred to our experienced, multidisciplinary breast cancer team.
Common benign breast lumps include:
- Fibroadenomas (benign lump made of fibrous tissue)
- Cysts (fluid filled sacs), lipomas (benign tumors of fat tissue)
- Internal bruises from trauma
- Infections (mastitis or abscess of the breast)
Most benign conditions do not require treatment and can be monitored. In patients who are experiencing pain or other symptoms, interventions may be recommended. Aspiration of a cyst or a surgical excision of a fibroadenoma can relieve pressure or pain that can result from the mass pushing on the normal tissue. It is important to pay attention to changes such as growth of the mass, skin changes, or nipple changes. If you notice a change, let your provider know and he/she can re-evaluate the situation. Prompt evaluation can alleviate anxiety and allow for treatment when needed.