You're a proactive woman, and you know the importance of that monthly self-breast exam. However, it's so easy to grow accustomed to finding nothing that it can be a real reality check when you wake up one morning and bam, there's that dreaded lump. Our doctors remind us every year how important self-breast exams are, but we are never really told exactly what to do if the worst case scenario occurs. We've compiled a list of actions you can take to help you stay calm and be strong in the midst of this unexpected curve ball.
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Don't panic: The most important thing to remember if you feel a lump in your breast is don't panic. Chances are pretty good that it is a benign growth, and that the initial fear you feel is going to be the worst symptom you will experience. A lot of these benign lumps can appear during your menstrual period, and will deteriorate shortly afterwards. It's still a good idea to give your doctor a call, but try to remain optimistic! Click here to learn how to complete a self-breast exam.
Visit your doctor: While there are home screening tests for breast cancer, paying your doctor a call should always be a top priority. Doctors know what questions to ask, and can often determine important information about the lump just by feeling its size, texture, and movement in your breast. Doctors will also be able to refer you to another specialist so that you can get a diagnostic test. Just being in reliable, knowledgeable hands can go a long way in calming your anxiety.
Get a diagnostic test: A diagnostic test can provide very detailed information about the lump, which will go a long way in determining whether or not it is cancerous. There are two types of diagnostic tests: mammograms and ultrasounds. Mammogram x-rays are used to detect any changes of lumps in the breast, and are often used as an early detector of cancer. Ultrasounds measure the sound waves within your breast, and can determine whether the lump is normal or abnormal. Diagnostic tests have three possible outcomes. They will either reveal that the lump is not cancerous, they can reveal that the lump is probably not cancerous (and you will need to return for another test in about 6 months), or they will determine that a biopsy is needed in order to further examine the abnormal lump.
Get a biopsy: A biopsy is necessary if the diagnostic test was inconclusive. Using a needle, doctors will remove a small piece of tissue from the lump. That tissue will be examined in order to determine whether or not the lump is cancerous.
While we all fervently hope that we will not be that 1 out of every 8 women who develops breast cancer, it is important to be thorough in our self-breast examinations. It is always better to be proactive rather than reactive! Check out our sources below for more information: