Mayo Clinic doctors begin to diagnose your breast lump by performing a physical exam of your breasts. Depending on your age and the location of the lump, your doctor will recommend a mammogram or ultrasound image.
Following the evaluation and a review of your tests, your doctor may tell you that you have no problem and the changes are related to normal glandular changes of the breast or that your lump is a simple cyst. If you have no other symptoms, you may need only regular follow-up exams.
However, if your doctor determines that your breast lump still appears to be suspicious after breast imaging, you may need a biopsy:
- Fine-needle aspiration. Your doctor uses this procedure to evaluate a complex cyst or to drain fluid from a painful cyst.
- Core needle biopsy. A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions using medical imaging techniques (radiologist) may perform this procedure. The radiologist uses ultrasound to guide a fine needle into your breast lump and take a small sample for analysis.
- Stereotactic biopsy. For this procedure, you lie facedown on a padded biopsy table with one of your breasts positioned in a hole in the table. Computer-generated images provide a 3-D view of your breast to help your doctor guide a needle to the lump to collect a tissue sample. Your doctor may recommend this procedure if a worrisome area shows up on a mammogram, but it can't be detected by ultrasound.
- Surgical (excisional) biopsy. In this procedure, also called a lumpectomy or wide local excision, your doctor removes the entire lump during either local or general anesthesia.
Whatever the biopsy method used, your doctor sends the tissue samples to a lab for analysis by a pathologist — a doctor who specializes in studying diseases and the changes they cause in body tissues. You may have to wait two or three days for the lab results.
Read more about breast exam, breast biopsy and lumpectomy.
May 29, 2014
- Non-cancerous breast conditions. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/healthy/findcancerearly/womenshealth/non-cancerousbreastconditions/index. Accessed March 19, 2014.
- Sabel MS. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of a palpable breast mass. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 19, 2014.
- Lentz GM, et al. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 20, 2014.
- Stereotactic breast biopsy. American College of Radiology. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=breastbixr. Accessed March 20, 2014.
- Pruthi S (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 21, 2014.
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