Breast ultrasound is frequently used to distinguish a liquid-filled cyst (fluid-filled mass) from a solid mass in the breast. The ultrasound is performed by covering the breast with gel and sliding a transducer across the breast surface. The transducer produces sound waves that will pass through a cyst or will bounce off a solid tumor, creating highly distinct images on the screen. If a mass turns out to be a cyst, aspiration or observation may be appropriate.
If the mass turns out to be solid, a biopsy might be necessary. A biopsy is a procedure that removes a sample of abnormal tissue or cells from the breast so that it can be examined under a microscope by a pathologist for analysis and diagnosis. Pathologists are trained to identify the nature of the tissue or cells. If a pathologist determines that the tissue or cells are benign (i.e., a benign tumor, cyst or calcification) then you do not have cancer, and regular follow-up may be all that is recommended.
Cells that are considered benign, but not completely normal, may indicate a condition that, while not cancerous, puts you at an increased risk for cancer. Atypical hyperplasia with atypia is such a condition. The breast tissue is determined to have certain abnormal changes. While these changes are not cancerous, they do increase the chances that cancer will develop. For this reason, women with atypical hyperplasia are recommended to have more frequent clinical breast exams and mammograms.
If the cell turns out to be malignant (cancer), your condition will be diagnosed as cancer and your surgeon will discuss the various treatment options with you.
Breast Density – Breast Cancer Screening!
The American Cancer Society, American College of Radiology, Society of Breast Imaging and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, among others, recommend that all women have yearly mammograms beginning at age 40. Women at high risk may benefit from starting earlier.