Mecklenburg Radiology

Breast Lump

Breast lumps are common in women of all ages and are frequently seen in primary care clinics across America. Although there are many reasons for women to develop lumps in their breasts, breast cancer must be excluded, as this is the most common cancer affecting women in the United States. If detected early, breast cancer can in many cases be successfully treated with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. However, the vast majority of breast lumps in women of all ages are benign and do not represent cancer.

How do we diagnose a Breast Lump?

Diagnostic mammography
In women over 40 years of age, mammography is the primary study used to examine the breasts. In diagnostic mammography, x-rays of the affected breast are taken at different angles. If mammography alone cannot identify the source of the lump, or if the lump is suspicious, further imaging exams will need to be performed.

Ultrasound
In patients with breast lumps that cannot be identified on mammography or those that are suspicious on mammography, breast ultrasound is usually the next step. Ultrasound does not produce radiation and instead uses high frequency soundwaves to image the breast with a high level of detail. In women under 30 years of age, ultrasound is typically used as the first-line imaging due to the lack of radiation, as well as the higher density of breast tissue in younger women.

How do we treat a Breast Lump?

In many cases, mammography and ultrasound can identify the breast lump as a benign condition, avoiding the need for further workup. If a mass looks suspicious, a biopsy of the mass can be performed. Most often, this minimally invasive procedure is performed by a radiologist in the office while using an ultrasound probe to locate the lump. After numbing the skin, a needle is placed into the lump, and a small sample of tissue is sent for examination by a pathologist. Your radiologist will discuss the results of the biopsy with you once the pathology report is complete.