Early detection of a breast lump is very important to a patient's prognosis (probable outcome). Most breast lumps are not diagnosed at the doctor's office, they are detected by women who give themselves breast self-examinations at home. Any breast lump that persists beyond a few days must be reported to a physician.
In some cases, a needle aspiration of a breast lump can be performed. If the tissue obtained is clearly not cancerous, if no blood was seen on the aspirate, and if the lump disappears after aspiration and does not recur, physicians will often simply observe patients.
Otherwise, the breast lump must be removed surgically to determine if cancer is present.
Update Date 11/15/2013
Updated by: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.