Difference Between Breast Lumps and Masses

Ask the Expert

Q:

I had a sonogram of my right breast done. They said I had several small "lumps" there. They also said that this is OK and that they are not masses. Can you tell me what the difference is?


A:

Your doctor probably wanted you to have an ultrasound because the mammogram showed some suspicious spots. Ultrasound, or sonogram, uses sound waves to identify structures within muscle and fatty tissue. It provides a much more detailed view of any breast lumps.

Your lumps are likely fluid-filled simple cysts, which are nothing to worry about. If they were solid in nature, or even cysts with solid material floating within the liquid, your doctor would probably order a biopsy. During this outpatient procedure, a bit of the cyst or lump is removed and carefully examined under a microscope for any abnormal cells.

You may also have lumpy breasts, also called fibrocystic breasts. It affects about one in three women in the United States, primarily those in their 30s and 40s, and is thought to result from hormonal changes throughout your menstrual cycle. It may also become progressively worse the closer you are to menopause.

Fibrocystic breasts can sometimes make breast cancers more difficult to detect on mammogram. If this is the case, your health care professional may prefer that you have ultrasounds performed in addition to your annual mammogram.

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