What should you do once you find a breast lump? And what should you expect to happen?
1. Primary care
Connect with your primary care provider to have the lump investigated. The majority of self-palpated lesions turn out to be benign tumors or cysts, says Upstate medical oncologist Sam Benjamin, MD.
“Unless we do imaging, and, sometimes, even a biopsy, we won’t know for a fact that it’s not cancerous,” he says.
The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends women age 50 and older be screened for breast cancer at least every two years, and more frequently if they have a family history of breast cancer.
If a mammogram reveals a lump that looks like a cyst, cells can be removed in a biopsy procedure called “fine needle aspiration.” If the lump appears solid, tissue can be removed in a “core biopsy.”
The laboratory at Upstate quickly turns around biopsy results, usually within 48 to 72 hours, Benjamin says. Most breast biopsies do not find cancer.
With Upstate’s multidisciplinary approach, women and men with a breast cancer diagnosis can be evaluated by a medical oncologist, surgical oncologist and radiation oncologist at the same time. “This gives the patient a much more comprehensive assessment of their condition,” he says.
5. Treatment plan
Treatment recommendations have changed in the past couple of decades. Full mastectomy is not necessary for many patients, Benjamin says. Those with small tumors that have not spread may choose breast-conserving surgery, followed by radiation — and they may not require chemotherapy.