What should I be concerned about if I have a breast abnormality?

If you have a breast abnormality, such as an identifiable mass or an abnormal mammogram, your concern should be: Is this a cancer? The question usually comes to mind because the question's been raised by another professional.

If you have an identifiable lesion that is highly suspicious for cancer, it may be very easy to prove that that's a cancer. It may not take that much tissue. If the lesion is easily palpable, the doctor may be able to do a needle biopsy right then and there and send it to the lab and, in short order, you've got a diagnosis.

If you have a probable benign lesion that can be felt, a needle biopsy may demonstrate benign tissue, but you may not be content with that. You may be concerned that it is cancer, and need someone to prove to you that you don't have cancer. Maybe you have a family history of carcinoma and are sensitized to the subject. You may still lose sleep over that diagnosis and you may want the doctor to be very persistent with that lesion. You may want him or her to increase your confidence level, to be diligent and prove to you that this is benign through and through.

Dr. Amanda J. Morehouse, MD
Critical Care Surgeon

You should be concerned about any breast abnormality that feels different to you. Most of the time somebody, either a woman or the doctor, feels something on an exam. Most of those turn out to be safe, but you feel much better to be safe than ignore something that isn’t safe. Anything that feels different to you, that just isn’t the way you remember it, should get checked out because bad things really can feel like anything. Most breast abnormalities detected by imaging turn out to be perfectly safe and benign, but they always command attention. It’s much better to worry about something that turns out to be perfectly healthy than ignore something that isn’t.

If you have a breast abnormality it is reasonable to be concerned about cancer. Signs and symptoms of cancer include the following:

  • swelling of all or part of the breast
  • skin irritation or dimpling
  • nipple turning inward
  • nipple discharge (other than breast milk while breastfeeding)
  • change of the skin on either the nipple or breast tissue
  • swelling of a lymph node in the armpit region
  • a lump or mass

Some of these symptoms can indicate a benign process, but if you have one or more of these signs you should be checked by your doctor.

Dr. Deanna J. Attai, MD

It is important to realize that most breast abnormalities are not breast cancer. However, any change in your breast should be reported to your healthcare provider. New lumps, discharge from the nipple, dimpling or retraction of the skin or nipple, redness that does not go away or pain that does not go away should be evaluated.

Continue Learning about Breast Cancer

Making Sense of the New Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines
Making Sense of the New Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines
It’s been an ongoing debate: Just when should a woman start having mammograms, and how helpful are they in detecting cancer? The American Cancer Socie...
Read More
What is a triple-negative breast cancer?
Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA)Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA)
In triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), the cancer cells do not contain receptors for estrogen, pro...
More Answers
4 Habits to Keep Your Breasts Healthy
4 Habits to Keep Your Breasts Healthy4 Habits to Keep Your Breasts Healthy4 Habits to Keep Your Breasts Healthy4 Habits to Keep Your Breasts Healthy
Simple things like regular exercise can protect your breasts.
Start Slideshow
Is High Touch Healthcare Still Important?
Is High Touch Healthcare Still Important?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.