A spiculated mass is a cluster of barbed tissue that is one of the primary indicators of cancer. Rather than a smooth lump, it has spicules or thin, elongated pieces of tissue sticking out from its perimeter. These spiky tumors can appear anywhere inside the body, but are often found in the breasts or lungs. When found, these masses are typically biopsied to confirm whether they are malignant or benign. If cancerous, treatment ranging from excision to radiation can be used.
Of all the indications of cancer, which include calcified tissue, lesions and smooth masses, the spiculated mass is believed to have the highest incidence of malignancy. For breast cancer cases, one explanation for this might be that cell tissue in these masses has abnormally higher levels of progesterone and estrogen. Some studies have shown that a spiculated mass typically has at least 30 percent more progesterone receptors and estrogen receptors than normal breast tissue or non-spiculated lumps.
While usually cancerous, it is possible in rare cases for a spiculated mass to be benign, particularly in instances where there is scar tissue, granular tumors or the presence of foreign matter in the body. When present, these masses can appear singly or in multiples. Often, they occur with adjacent calcified tissue.
In cases of breast cancer, a spiculated mass usually exists on the periphery of the breast, not the center, and is typically discovered through ultrasonography or a mammogram, which is a screening that uses radiation to create images of breast tissue. A radiologist is able to use computer-aided diagnosis (CAD) software to magnify and highlight abnormalities in breast images with colored lines in order to evaluate whether a mass is spiculated. Spicules are difficult to discern. For lung cancer cases, a computerized tomography (CT) chest scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can detect a spiculated mass. In conjunction with those procedures, an invasive surgical screening of the chest known as mediastinoscopy might be used.
No other symptoms may accompany the presence of spiculated masses. Sometimes, however, pain, skin thickening and infection can be present. For some breast cancer patients, the inversion of nipples may accompany the presence of a mass of this kind. Smokers and people with cancer history in their families have a higher risk of suffering from spiculated masses.
Treatment for this type of mass located in the breast often includes lumpectomy or mastectomy. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy can be used for both breast and lung masses. Doctors often recommend lifestyle alterations, as well, such as abstinence from alcohol and smoking.