Suspicious breast lumps care at Mayo Clinic

Your Mayo Clinic care team

Specialists trained in medical imaging (radiology), medical cancer treatment (oncology), human tissue study (laboratory medicine and pathology), surgery, radiation therapy for cancer (radiation oncology), plastic and reconstructive surgery, clinical genomics, and psychology diagnose and treat breast conditions at Mayo Clinic.

Having all this expertise in a single place, focused on you, means that you're not just getting one opinion — your care is discussed among the team, your test results are available quickly, appointments are scheduled in coordination and the most highly specialized breast condition experts in the world are all working together for you.

Advanced diagnosis

Mayo Clinic doctors begin to diagnose your breast lump by performing a physical exam of your breasts. If necessary, further evaluation may be done, including:

  • 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 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.

Treatment expertise

Your treatment choices depend on the type of breast lump you have. Your Mayo Clinic doctor will explain your options and consider your preferences as you work together to develop a treatment plan for your condition.

  • Fibrocystic breasts. If you have fibrocystic breasts, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain remedies or may prescribe hormone therapy, such as birth control pills.
  • Breast cysts. Some breast cysts disappear without any treatment. If the cyst is painful, your doctor may perform fine-needle aspiration — drawing the fluid out of the cyst with a needle — which helps drain the cyst and can relieve the pain.

    If you have recurring breast cysts that are persistent and painful, your doctor may talk to you about surgery to remove the painful breast tissue (lumpectomy). However, most often painful, recurring breast cysts resolve around the time of menopause, when hormone fluctuations occur less frequently.

  • Fibroadenomas. A fibroadenoma might disappear without treatment after a few months. You'll have regular ultrasound exams of your breast tissue to assess the size and appearance of the fibroadenoma. If the fibroadenoma grows or appears unusual during an ultrasound exam, your doctor may recommend a biopsy.

    Depending on the pathology lab findings, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the fibroadenoma. If the fibroadenoma remains unchanged in size or appearance after two years, you can continue with regular breast exams but no longer need follow-up breast ultrasound exams.

  • Infections. Most infections respond to antibiotic treatment, but you may require a procedure known as an incision and drainage if an abscess forms and does not improve with antibiotics.
  • Breast cancer. Your treatment for breast cancer depends on which type of cancer it is and its stage of development. Your doctor may recommend surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or participation in a clinical trial.

If you're at high risk of developing breast cancer, you may benefit from Mayo Clinic's prevention and genetic counseling services.

Comprehensive, coordinated care

Doctors from the Breast Diagnostic Clinic coordinate needed services, from imaging to pathology and surgery, to ensure a quick and efficient evaluation. You receive most of your care in one facility, making care convenient. You can receive a biopsy and your results within 24 to 72 hours, which reduces your waiting time and the need for multiple visits.