By Dr. Sandeep Nayak

The first thing that you do when you feel a lump in your breast is not to panic. In most cases, these lumps will go away on their own. In younger women, lumps are often related to menstrual periods and will go away by the end of the cycle. Lumps are very common during breast feeding as well. However, if you find a lump (or any change in your breast or underarm area), it is best to see your health care provider to be sure it is not breast cancer. Most lumps are not breast cancer, but something less serious, such as a benign (not cancer) breast condition.

 See your doctor if you:

  • Find a new lump (or any change) that feels different from the rest of your breast
  • Feel something that is different from what you felt before

If you are unsure whether you should have a lump (or any change) checked, it is best to see a doctor. Although a lump (or any change) may be nothing to worry about, you will have the peace of mind that it has been checked.

 Pain is NOT a feature of early breast cancer. There are several factors that may cause the pain. Clinically known as mastalgia, breast pain can also be caused by the following:

  • the fluctuation of hormones caused by menstruation
  • some birth control pills
  • some infertility treatments
  • a bra that doesn’t fit
  • breast cysts
  • large breasts, which may be accompanied by neck, shoulder, or back pain
  • stress

 What does the doctor do when you consult?

Every breast lump needs to undergo what is called ‘Triple Examination.’ This is done in-order-to not to miss a cancer.

  • Clinical examination. This is to confirm the presence of lump. Many a times you may be feeling normal changes in breast as lump. A doctor can make out the difference and advise you about the need for further tests.
  • Mammography: This can be done using X-ray, ultrasound or both. Among women younger than 40, it is advisable to perform only an ultrasound examination of breast. Older women need to undergo an X-ray mammogram. The doctors look for features that suggest possibility of cancer.
  • Needle biopsy: The pathologist passes a very thin needle (fine needle aspiration cytology-FNAC) into the tumour to extract a few cells from the lump and examine the same under microscope. This gives an idea about the nature of the lump. Sometimes this may be performed with the help of ultrasound.

These tests would help a doctor reach a diagnosis and would allow your doctor make a plan for your treatment.