A lump in the breast or a suspicious spot found on a mammogram can be very scary, but it doesn’t necessarily mean cancer.
Most lumps or spots found on mammograms are benign—meaning they aren’t cancer.
The most common benign findings are fibrocystic changes, which cause breast lumpiness. Other benign masses include breast cysts and tumors called fibroadenomas.
After a mammogram, a physician can confirm that a mass or lesion is benign with other tests, such as breast ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging or biopsy. With a biopsy, a sample of tissue is removed for examination.
However, some benign masses can raise the risk of breast cancer, so they may be removed with surgery. These include lobular carcinoma in situ, in which abnormal cells are found in the milk-producing areas of the breast. Another is atypical hyperplasia, in which breast cells are abnormal and increased in number.
Even though most breast lumps or lesions are not cancer, mammography is an important tool for detecting breast cancer early on, when it’s easiest to treat. A mammogram can detect breast cancer up to two years before the tumor can be felt.
But the benefits and limitations of mammography vary based on factors like age and personal risk. Both women and men should talk with thier doctor about their family history and discuss when to start getting mammograms.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas invites you to remind your loved one about the importance of early detection with the new “Early Detection is Key” eCard from eCards for HealthSM.
Sources: American Cancer Society, CancerCare.org; Blue Cross Blue Shield