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What happens after you find a breast lump

What should you do once you find a breast lump? And what should you expect to happen?

Sam Benjamin, MD

Sam Benjamin, MD

1. Primary care

Connect with your primary care provider to have the lump investigated. The majority of self-palpated lesions turn out to be benign tumors or cysts, says Upstate medical oncologist Sam Benjamin, MD.

“Unless we do imaging, and, sometimes, even a biopsy, we won‘t know for a fact that it‘s not cancerous,” he says.

2. Mammogram

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends women age 50 and older be screened for breast cancer at least every two years, and more frequently if they have a family history of breast cancer.

If a mammogram reveals a lump that looks like a cyst, cells can be removed in a biopsy procedure called “fine needle aspiration.” If the lump appears solid, tissue can be removed in a “core biopsy.”

3. Biopsy

The laboratory at Upstate quickly turns around biopsy results, usually within 48 to 72 hours, Benjamin says. Most breast biopsies do not find cancer.

4. Diagnosis

With Upstate‘s multidisciplinary approach, women and men with a breast cancer diagnosis can be evaluated by a medical oncologist, surgical oncologist and radiation oncologist at the same time. “This gives the patient a much more comprehensive assessment of their condition,” he says.

5. Treatment plan

Treatment recommendations have changed in the past couple of decades. Full mastectomy is not necessary for many patients, Benjamin says. Those with small tumors that have not spread may choose breast-conserving surgery, followed by radiation -- and they may not require chemotherapy.

Cancer Care winter 2017 coverHealthLink on Air logoThis article appears in the winter 2017 issue of Cancer Care magazine. Hear a radio interview/podcast with Benjamin discussing breast lumps and their diagnosis.