Breast Lump

How do we diagnose a Breast Lump?

Diagnostic Mammography

In women over 40 years of age, mammography is the main 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.

Breast 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.  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.

Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Breast MRI is the most accurate method to detect and characterize lumps in the breast.  It is also more expensive and is therefore usually reserved for specific cases or patients who are at higher risk for breast cancer.

Ultrasound Guided Biopsy

If a lump is identified that has a suspicious appearance by mammography and/or ultrasound a small sample of the suspicious tissue (biopsy) can be obtained through a thin needle using ultrasound images to guide placement of the needle. During the procedure, a small clip is left to mark the location of the biopsy.

Stereotactic Biopsy

If a lump is identified and is best seen on mammography a specialized form of mammography can be used to obtain a small sample of the suspicious tissue (biopsy).  A small needle is utilized to obtain the sample.  During the procedure, a small clip is left to mark the location of the biopsy.

MRI Guided Breast Biopsy

Occasionally a suspicious area in the breast can only be seen by MRI.  In those cases and an MRI guided biopsy is needed.  After the area is found on MRI a special needle is used to take a small sample of the tissue.  A small clip is left to mark the location of the biopsy.

How do we treat a Breast Cancer?

If a biopsy has diagnosed breast cancer then usually there is a marking clip left in place.  After the biopsy the tissue is sent to a specialized physician to determine if it is cancer or not.  If it is the clip left in place during the biopsy marks the location of the tumor and that clip can be found later and again marked for surgery with a very thin needle that locks in place by the clip and shows the surgeon where the tumor is located.  If the tumor is larger or has spread additional treatment with radiation and chemotherapy may be helpful.