Breast Surgery

When You Find a Lump In Your Breast

Every year, thousands of women find a lump in their breast. The first emotion that someone feels is fear, which is an understandable emotion. However, most lumps are not serious medical conditions, they are non cancerous. Today, people are more aware of self-examination and with today's sophisticated technology, lumps that are found to be cancerous are often diagnosed earlier. With earlier diagnosis, the more successful the treatment may be.

Understanding Breast Lumps

Although, all lumps should be evaluated, most are benign (non cancerous), and should be little cause for concern. Other lumps may be malignant (cancerous), and need prompt treatment. Understanding breast lumps will help you make an informed decision about any treatment that you may need.
A normal breast can feel "lumpy" and can change in size or tenderness throughout your menstrual cycle. Changes also may occur as your weight fluctuates or as you grow older. Benign breast lumps are not "normal", but usually do not require extensive treatment since their cells won't spread outside your breast. Malignant breast lumps do require prompt treatment because their cells may spread to other parts of your body.

Benign Breast Lumps

Most women experience a benign breast lump at some time during their lives. Eight out of ten breast lumps are benign; they are noncancerous lumps that don't invade other tissues. They may develop when your breast changes in response to diet or other influences, such as hormones (called fibrocystic condition.) That's why benign lumps like a normal breast, often change in size or tenderness during your menstrual cycle.

Fibrocystic Condition

Fibrocystic condition can cause many types of lumps. Breast ducts may enlarge, fill with fluid, and form a round firm cyst, which can grow as large as a golf ball. Or duct cells may multiply abnormally (hyperplasia), forming solid, often tender lumps or areas of thickened tissue. When these over- multiplying duct cells develop unusual features (atypia), they may be associated with a high risk of cancer. A dense growth of fibrous tissue and ducts is called a fibroadenoma. These lumps feel like solid, rubbery marbles. They have smooth edges, are moveable, can be multiple and occur in both breasts, and usually don't feel tender.

Malignant Breast Lumps

The cells of malignant breast lumps grow uncontrollably and may invade other breast tissue or eventually spread (metastasize), beyond the breast itself. Often single, hard, and painless, these lumps usually do not change with the menstrual cycle. There are many different types, but most develop in mammary ducts or glands. The size of the lump and how far it has spread determine the stage of breast cancer, which determines the approach to your treatment.

What Is A Biopsy?

A biopsy is a technique for removing cells from a lump and examining them under a microscope to confirm a malignancy. It is a simple procedure, similar to taking blood. A fine needle biopsy takes only a few minutes. The stereotactic core needle biopsy will take a little longer, usually less than an hour. This procedure is performed as an outpatient surgery. A local anesthetic may be used to numb the breast area temporarily.

During the biopsy, your breast will be cleaned with an antiseptic. Then your surgeon will insert a thin needle to extract fluid or cells from the detected lump. The stereotactic core needle biopsy is used to remove tissue from an abnormality seen on your mammogram. After the biopsy, you may have an adhesive bandage over the area for a few hours, but you may be able to go home immediately. You may have your results of the biopsy before you leave or your surgeon may call you in a few days. Your surgeon may need to discuss the need for further diagnostic tests.

Open Biopsy

An open biopsy is where the surgeon needs to remove all or part of your breast lump for examination under a microscope. Whenever possible, your surgeon makes an incision along the contour of your breast to help conceal the scar. If the lump is small and easy to retrieve, your surgeon may remove the entire lump and a margin of normal cells around it (excisional biopsy). Removing a portion of the lump (incisional biopsy), may be done if the lump is large. After removing the lump, your surgeon sutures the incision closed. After an open biopsy, you may have preliminary results and go home immediately, or your surgeon may call you with the results in a few days. You'll have a dressing and may be asked to wear a bra for a few days even while you sleep, to help ease any discomfort. Any stitches you have will dissolve or be removed within a week and you can usually return to work within a few days.

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