HEALTH TALK: Breast lumps – myths and facts

Dr. Victor Emanuel MD
Dr. Victor Emanuel MD

It’s understandable to be concerned when you feel a lump in your breast. But don’t jump to conclusions. Instead, take action. Call the doctor to find out what it is.

Also, make sure you haven’t fallen for any of these 8 Myths about breast lumps.

Myth 1: A Breast Lump is Probably Cancer

8 out of ten (80%) of breast lumps women feel are NOT cancer. It’s more common for them to be a cyst (a sac) or a fibroadenoma (an abnormal growth that’s not cancer). Some lumps came and go during a woman’s menstrual cycle.

You can’t tell what it is by how it feels.

It’s always important to know your own body and detect a change which may need to be evaluated. If it is cancer, then you may have saved your life.

MYTH 2: If You Have a Lump but Your Mammogram is Normal, You’re done

You may need more tests, such as an MRI, ultrasound, or follow-up mammogram to take another look at the lump.

You may also need to get a biopsy, which is when a doctor takes a small sample of the lump to test it. (You know that, right?)

Your doctor may also recommend getting checked more often.

MYTH 3: Cancerous Breast Lumps Are Always Painless

Not necessarily. Although breast cancers aren’t always painful, having pain in the breast (not chest) doesn’t rule out cancer.

Inflammatory breast cancer – which has early symptoms such as redness, swelling, tenderness, and warmth in the breast – can be painful when there is a lump.

MYTH 4: If You Find a Lump While Breastfeeding, it Can’t Be Cancer

Though breastfeeding does make you less likely to get breast cancer, it can still happen. If you notice a lump while you’re breastfeeding, don’t ignore it.

You may get an ultrasound to check it out.

MYTH 5: If You’re Young, a Breast Lump Can’t Be Cancer

This is not so. Whatever your age, you should get breast lumps checked out by a doctor.

Even though most women who get breast cancer are past menopause or older than 50, a lump can be cancer, even in a younger woman.

MYTH 6: A small lump is Less Likely to Be Cancer Than a Large Lump

Breast lumps come in all sizes, and size doesn’t affect the odds that it’s cancer.

When you feel a lump that’s new or unusual, even if it’s tiny, see the doc. Even small lumps can be aggressive cancers.

MYTH 7: If You Feel a Lump Soon After a Mammogram, it’s O.K. to Wait Another Year.

See the doctor if you notice a lump soon after your latest mammogram, even if the results were normal. Mammograms can miss some cancers, especially if you have dense breast tissue of if the lump is in an awkward location (such as near your armpit).

The doctor should only suggest a ‘watch-and-wait’ approach after the appropriate breast imaging has been normal and nothing suspicious can be felt.

MYTH 8: A Lump Is Probably Harmless If There Is No Breast Cancer in Your Family

Many women think they’re not at risk for breast cancer if no one in their family has had it. But that’s not true. Less than 15% of women with breast cancer have a relative who’s had the disease, says the American Cancer Society.

Get all lumps checked by a doctor, whether or not breast cancer runs in your family.

Care for your breasts, ladies.

See you next week.

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  1. sweety
    October 18, 2013

    Examine, test and be sure is best.

  2. Anonymous
    September 26, 2013

    Yes, for all of us who love breast (both the owners and feelers thereof), we should take care to keep them healthy!

    One question doc; can men get breast cancer at all?

  3. Thankful
    September 26, 2013

    Thank you Dr. Emanuel. You present the info with such simplicity and the topics are always relevant. God bless you.

    September 26, 2013

    Excellent info….can you tell us how to do a good check for lumps if you have large breasts or have breast that are pendulous?

  5. ios
    September 25, 2013

    THANK YOU Doctor. I love the Doctor you know. He explains everything so good at no cost.

  6. God's child
    September 25, 2013

    Doc, if you’re diagnosed with breast cancer which has spread to the lymph nodes, what’s the prognosis? please respond. thanks

  7. Jah guidell
    September 25, 2013

    Simple. Nicely presented. Easy to read and understand. Good job

  8. Anonymous
    September 25, 2013

    That’s good news

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