Mayo Clinic doctors begin to diagnose your breast lump by performing a physical examination of your breasts. Depending on your age and the location of the lump, your doctor will recommend a mammogram or ultrasound image.
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, all you need may be regular follow-up exams. After examining the images and determining that your lump is still suspicious, your doctor will probably recommend one of the following biopsies.
- Fine-needle aspiration. Your doctor uses this procedure to evaluate a complex cyst or to drain fluid from a painful cyst.
- Core needle biopsy. Your doctor will numb your breast with a local anesthetic before performing a core needle biopsy. The doctor who performs this procedure is often a radiologist who uses ultrasound to guide a fine needle to your lump and take a small sample for analysis.
- Stereotactic biopsy. For this procedure, you'll lie on your stomach on a table that has a hole for your breast to hang through. Computer-generated images provide a 3-D view of your breast to help your doctor guide the needle to your lump. This procedure is often recommended when a mammogram abnormality is worrisome but it cannot be detected by ultrasound.
- Surgical (excisional) biopsy. In this procedure, also called a lumpectomy or wide local excision, your doctor removes the entire lump under either local or general anesthesia.
Whatever the biopsy method used, your doctor sends the tissue samples to a laboratory for analysis by a pathologist. It may take two or three days to get the lab results.
Read more about breast exams, breast biopsies, fine-needle aspiration and lumpectomy at MayoClinic.com.