Is a breast swelling/lump always cancer?
No, a lump is not always cancer. Benign conditions (i.e. non-cancerous conditions) such as cysts, fibroadenomas, and infections such as an abscess can also present as lumps. Sometimes, prominent normal breast tissue can also feel a bit ‘lumpy’.
When I do a self-exam on my breasts I feel lumps everywhere – what’s normal?
It is very important for women to regularly examine their breasts, as nobody else knows their breast better than themselves. The more you examine your breasts, the more you will get to know them. The advice, however, remains that if you are at all worried about your breasts, then you should see a doctor who can examine you and give advice.
What changes should I look for when I examine my breasts?
Your examination should including looking as well as feeling your breasts. Things to look out for include:
- Lumps or thickening that feels different from the rest of the breast
- Any change in the shape of the breast
- Skin changes such as redness or rash around the breast or nipple
- Skin dimpling/puckering
- Nipple pulling inwards (inversion)
- Liquid or bloody nipple discharge that occurs without squeezing. You may notice this on your undergarments
If you notice any of these, then you should see a surgeon
How is a breast lump evaluated?
The initial assessment is a thorough clinical examination performed by the surgeon. After this, if indicated, you will be referred to the radiology department for further diagnostic tests.
The scan recommended may either be an ultrasound scan, a mammogram or both. This depends on your age and the condition you present with. A biopsy/needle test will be performed after seeing the imaging report.
What happens if the lump is not cancer?
Benign (non-cancerous) breast lumps are treated depending on their nature. Areas of fibrocystic change that can present as ‘lumpiness’ can be left alone. Benign lumps such as fibroadenomas are usually surgically excised if they are large.
What happens if the lump is cancer?
Breast cancer treatment involves several modalities, which includes surgery, as well as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and endocrine therapy (i.e. tablets). The treatment recommended to you will be tailored according to cancer you have. Some people may need all the treatment above; others may only need one or two of the treatments.
There are two types of surgery performed, a lumpectomy (breast conservation surgery) or a mastectomy. The type of surgery recommended will on the size of the lump in relation to the size of the breast.