Usually, when a woman performs self-examination of her breasts, she can finish by uttering these words to herself: "no lump in breast." Sometimes, however, she does feel a lump. On rare occasions, a woman must end that self-examination by saying to herself, "oh no, lump in breast." What does such a discovery mean for the woman who has made it?
Although the woman who whispers to herself "lump in breast" has made a self-diagnosis, it is not the sort of self-diagnosis that is likely to be questioned by her physician. Physicians rely on self-examination to facilitate the early discovery of a breast lump. Physicians realize that a self diagnosis of "lump in breast" can seldom be seen as an unnecessary concern for a minor health problem.
Such a diagnosis needs to be addressed quickly. Such a diagnosis normally calls for a breast biopsy. The breast biopsy provides the physician with some important information. The testing of material removed during a breast biopsy reveals how quickly a breast lump is growing. It also indicates whether or not that breast lump contains hormone receptors.
Because every woman is different, every breast lump, i.e. every tumor in a woman's breast, has different characteristics. Yet all such lumps result from the unchecked growth of cells within the breast. Sometimes those cells are confined to a breast duct, and sometimes they grow in the lobules of the breast.
Some lumps are so buried in the breast tissue that they can not be found by self-examination. Such buried lumps can be discovered at an early stage if, and only if, the physician can get an image of the tissue inside the breast. In other words, discovery of such buried lumps requires a mammogram.
In rare instances a lump may not be buried at all. In rare instances a woman may find that she has "lump on breast," rather than "lump in breast." A lump on the breast could be a malignant tumor, but not always. Sometimes a woman who catches her breath and says, "lump on breast" later heaves a sigh of relief. Sometimes a doctor can destroy a benign lump on the breast by removing the fluid in that lump.
Women who report the presence of a breast lump, and who then need to get a biopsy, do not all get the same type of biopsy. If the lump can be felt easily, then the physician uses a fine needle to draw-off some cells from the lump. If the lump can not be felt, then the physician must perform an image-guided biopsy. X-rays or ultrasound must be used to locate the hidden lump. Then tissues from that lump can be obtained, through use of either a core needle or a vacuum-assisted probe.
At times a physician will call for a surgical biopsy. That means that the breast lump must be surgically removed, in order to allow for analysis of that lump. This procedure requires wire localization, i.e. the insertion of one or more wires into the area near the lump. An incision is then made in the breast tissue, and the lump can thus be removed.
Any one of the above-described biopsy techniques might be used, after a woman has had to report, "lump on breast."