NOTE: This article was written by Kit. She saw her mother and grandmother face breast cancer and survive. Kit wanted to find out more about the disease and the options. She shared this with us and asked us to share it with you
A week or two ago, you found a lump in your breast. As soon as you got your bearings, you arranged a doctor’s appointment, and you set it for the closest available date.
You were worried, maybe even terrified. What’s going to happen now?
When you think of the word “lump,” you tend to think of good things. Maybe a lump of crème fraiche on a pancake topped with strawberries, a lump of butter on a steaming hot potato just out of the oven, or that cute lump of baby in the pictures you show everyone you meet.
Those are good things, but when one finds it in a place that’s not supposed to have any lumps, it’s not a good thing. Way too many women and their families have suffered horribly from breast cancer.
Facts About Breast Cancer
Approximately 12 percent (one out of eight) women in the United States will face breast cancer in their lifetime. There are many contributing factors: poor food choices, stress, and genetics are at the top of the list.
According to the American Cancer Society there will be 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer, 63,410 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer, and an approximate 40,610 deaths from breast cancer this year.
There is some good news, though. The majority of women who find masses do not have breast cancer. Lumps may come from a number of causes: intraductal papillomas, mastitis, fibroadenoma, or lipoma, for instance.
All of these are either non-threatening or easily resolved.
Death rates from breast cancer dropped from 1989 to 2007, but have remained fairly steady since. These decreases are attributed to increased awareness, better screening, and more technologies for an efficient intervention.
There are 3.1 million survivors of breast cancer in the US alone, showing the effects of continuous medical improvement. The current statistics show the chance that a woman will die from breast cancer is about 2.7%.
Breast Cancer Biopsy – What to Expect
Your physician will most likely perform routine palpation, then order a mammogram or ultrasound of the mass. The typical next step in the diagnosis is a biopsy.
A biopsy is a simple surgical procedure done to get samples of suspicious tissue. These may be accomplished in several ways: fine-needle aspiration cytology, core biopsy, or a surgical biopsy. Your doctor will determine the type of biopsy, based on the appearance, size, and location of your lump.
A fine-needle aspiration (FNA) is often done if the lump is likely to be fluid-filled. This works by taking a fine-needled syringe, essentially “piercing” the mass, and getting cells or fluid from it to be examined under a microscope. The cyst will often collapses after aspiration.
A core biopsy uses a larger needle to get samples from the suspicious tissue. Local anaesthetic is administered to the area before a small cut is made on the skin, or the needle is pushed through to the mass. Both these procedures may be guided by ultrasound imaging.
A surgical biopsy is done under local and mild general anaesthesia. A cut is made on the breast, and the lump is partially or wholly removed from the surrounding tissue. All samples are then taken to the laboratory to be examined.
Breast Cancer and the Biopsy — Tips
Here are tips to remember, if you’ve found a suspicious lump in your breast. These are from those who’ve gone through the process.
You are not alone.
- Don’t panic if you find a lump in your breast; chances are it isn’t cancer
- Talk to someone who will support you on the journey, and let them know exactly what you’re feeling
- Ask your support person to come with you to the biopsy and to the follow-up appointment
There are definitely good lumps in the world, but all aren’t so good. Even if you are diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s not a death sentence. Many women recover every year to live full and healthy lives. Some even say their diagnosis was a godsend. It helped them get back in touch with the preciousness of life and begin to take better care of themselves and their relationships.
Please Note: The articles on Dr. Andy Higgins’ website are obtained from a variety of sources. While they pertain to the treatment of breast cancer, colon cancer, and other maladies, their presence here is not to help diagnose or treat any disease, but to stimulate conversation about health-related issues. All articles are cleared by an editor, but not necessarily by Doctor Higgins himself.