A breast nodule is basically a lump that forms in a person’s breast tissue. The vast majority of breast lumps are not cancerous and are referred to as benign. Cancerous breast lumps can prove deadly, however, which is the reason the discovery of a breast lump is worrisome and why it's important to catch them early. Doctors can perform tests and sometimes surgical biopsies to determine whether a breast lump is benign or malignant.
An individual may a develop a breast nodule in any part of her breast tissue. For example, one woman may develop one under the nipple while another may discover one in the breast tissue near her armpit. These lumps can be any size. A woman may notice a breast nodule that is the size of a pea or a lump that is larger than an egg. The size of the lump doesn’t indicate whether or not it is cancerous.
Interestingly, most people think of women when breast nodules and breast cancer are discussed. They can, however, affect men too. For this reason, a person of either gender should see a doctor right away upon discovering a breast-area lump. A doctor can help determine whether the lump is benign or cancerous and what, if anything, should be done to treat it.
Since breast cancer is a leading killer of women, females are advised to perform monthly self-examinations to check for lumps. Early detection of breast cancer can dramatically affect a person’s prognosis, so these self-checks are vital. A woman may receive an annual breast examination from her gynecologist as well. As women grow older, they typically receive regular mammograms, which are x-rays of breast tissue. Those with a family history of breast cancer may need to have mammograms at a younger age.
Sometimes doctors are able to use diagnostic imaging tests to determine whether or not a breast nodule is likely to be benign. If this does not provide enough certainty, however, a doctor may perform a biopsy of the breast tissue. To perform a breast biopsy, doctors remove a sample of the abnormal breast tissue and have it examined for cancer cells. Depending on the lump and the preferences of the doctor and patient, this can be done using a needle or through an operation to remove the lump. A pathologist is given the job of examining the tissue and determining whether it is benign or cancerous.