How do we diagnose a Breast Lump?
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.
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.
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.