Something wrong with a breast could be a lump or abnormal mammogram.  A lump in the breast is always abnormal; however, a lump does not necessarily mean cancer.  The same applies to an abnormal finding on a mammogram.  If you find a breast lump, the most important thing is to call your physician immediately and get in for an appointment. If you have an abnormal mammogram, your physician will immediately pursue other steps.

Here is a short list:

A clinical breast exam.  If you find a lump, your physician will perform an exam of your breasts to confirm the lump you are feeling.  He/she may also check the skin over your breasts and feel the underarm area.

Breast imaging.  You will likely be sent for a mammogram if you have a lump.  This is an X-ray of the breast that may show if there is an abnormal growth corresponding to the lump.  Look at this image.  Often, an ultrasound may also be done.

Breast biopsy.  If you already have an abnormal mammogram and/or ultrasound (whether or not you felt a lump), you may start here.  A needle may be introduced into the lump to collect tissue. Ultrasound, X-rays, or MRI may be used to direct the needle to the right place.  Collected tissue is sent to a pathology lab to be analyzed.

Meet a breast surgeon.  This is a highly trained surgeon specializing in diseases of the breast.  This surgeon will determine if more pictures of the breast are needed (such as MRI).  Occasionally, the surgeon might recommend more biopsies.  If the breast lump needs to be cut out, this surgeon will discuss options for cutting out the lump.

Other steps.  This depends on biopsy results and recommendations from the breast surgeon.  Examples may include seeing a radiation oncologist or medical oncologist.

Perhaps you want to share your experience or have other thoughts?  Feel free to leave a comment below.  If you found this helpful, please share with your family and friends.  Stay tuned for an article focusing on next steps after a diagnosis of breast cancer.