By Dr. Kathleen Ruddy

Self-examination of your breast is best for early detection of breast abnormalities. These should be done monthly, and professional examinations should be done yearly. Although most lumps are benign, always make an appointment to see your physician if you find a lump in your breast.

What is the shape of a cancerous tumor?

A tumor on the breast feels very hard. Generally, the tumor is an irregular shape, bumpy and not movable during a self-exam. If you find a lump, do not immediately panic. Instead, call your physician to set up an appointment for a professional examination. During the exam, you doctor will take measurements of the lump, ask if you are experiencing any pain in your breast and schedule several tests.

What tests are used if a tumor is found?

The first test your doctor will schedule is a mammogram. During your mammogram, a technician takes several X-rays of each breast. Once the test is completed, a radiologist reviews your X-rays and sends a report to your doctor. If the mammogram reveals a tumor in your breast, your doctor will schedule you to have an ultrasound of the breast. During the ultrasound, an ultrasound technician will glide a transducer along your breast. The transducer emits sound waves, which are used to show the surrounding breast tissue.


With inflammatory breast cancer, lumps are not usually present. Instead, the cancer cells cause the breast to look inflamed, often causing the skin to itch and develop the texture of an orange peel.

How is a biopsy performed?

There are two different ways that a biopsy is performed. The most common method of biopsy is a needle biopsy. With this method, a needle is inserted into the tumor and a small amount of tissue is extracted for testing. Your surgeon may suggest that you have a surgical biopsy. During a surgical biopsy, a small incision is made in the breast and a piece of the tumor is removed.

What are the treatment options for breast tumors?

If your breast tumor is benign and small, your physician may wish to do nothing. If the tumor is large, he may wish to remove it. Additionally, if your breast tumor is cancerous, there are several treatment options including chemotherapy and radiation. Your doctor will choose the treatment method that is best suited for your particular type of cancer, the size of the mass and the staging of your breast cancer.

Self-examination of your breasts is vital for early detection of lumps. Additionally, the American Cancer Society states that early detection is key to survival rates. Do monthly self-exams and have annual professional breast exams to help lower your risk of breast cancer.

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