Many patients find their breast lump by chance- during showering, or wearing clothes. Some might have felt some muscle pain, and happened to touch the breast area and found a lump. A few patients practice regular breast self-exam, or their doctor detected the lump at a health checkup.
While a breast lump is taught to be a sign of breast cancer, the truth is that most breast lumps are benign- they may be due to hormonal changes (fibrocystic changes), or conditions such as fibroadenomas, cysts, lipomas, angiomyolipomoas, etc.
To allay your fear and concern, do see a breast specialist to get a fast, accurate assessment.
Depending on the location of the lump: on the skin, just under the skin, near to nipple, near to armpit- it may be felt easily, or not. We strongly encourage all ladies to practice regular breast self-exam, or go see a family doctor for a routine yearly health checkup.
If it’s the first time ever you detected a breast lump, it is prudent to get a doctor’s check.
For Dr Tan Yia Swam’s practice, when patients visit the clinic for the first time, she will conduct a thorough interview for a personalised risk assessment, followed by a physical examination. Dr Tan Yia Swam will then recommend a radiology study, likely an ultrasound scan, and a mammogram as necessary.
After these radiology tests are done, Dr Tan Yia Swam will then advise if you need additional tests (eg biopsy), or just a simple followup scan will be enough. Some conditions (eg cyst, fibroadenomas) may be clear just on imaging alone. But for some lumps, the doctor may advise for a biopsy just to make sure we get the correct diagnosis.
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, some patients may require surgery. For cancerous lump, do read the section on breast cancer for more information.
For benign (non-cancerous) lumps, surgery may be done if the lump is big, causing discomfort or distress, or continues to grow after a period of monitoring.
Surgery for benign breast lumps are usually done as a day surgery. This is done under general anaesthesia (means that the patient is “asleep” during the procedure), and take around an hour (may vary depending on size and number of lumps.) Absorbable stitches are used. Once you are fully awake from the anaesthesia, Dr Tan Yia Swam will check on you and discharge you. There will be a follow-up visit about one week later to check the wound, and get the final lab report from the surgery to ensure that all is well.
There is no definite cause for benign breast lumps. They are harmless, non-cancerous, and linked to our normal hormonal status. If the lump is benign, and does not change over the years of monitoring, it is perfectly fine to leave them alone.
Discuss with your doctor if you have particular concerns; and see if there is a need for biopsies or surgery, especially in women with high risk factors for breast cancer.
Avoiding standing still for long periods will reduce the pressure in the veins in the legs. For people who need to stand for long periods at work, wearing compression stockings will reduce the pressure build up in the legs.
The ultrasound will be done of the legs from the thigh to the calves. Please wear or bring along a pair of shorts to change into for the scan.