Don't Wait to Get That Lump Checked

doctor breast cancer patient

You are taking a shower when you feel something in one of your breasts. You go over the area again. You weren’t imagining it, there is a lump.

You try to ease your growing anxiety by reminding yourself that 8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous.

What You Have to Do

Don’t let fear put you into a denial mode.You need to get any changes in your breasts examined as soon as possible.There is nothing to be gained by postponing being seen. Protect your health; make an appointment.

If you don't have a gynecologist, make an appointment with your family doctor. If you don't have a doctor, call your local medical society or hospital physicians registry for a referral. 

If you don’t have insurance coverage, don’t postpone getting what might be a life-saving exam.

For over 20 years, the Centers for Disease Control National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) has provided free or low-cost mammograms and Pap tests to low-income women with little or no health insurance. Find a local program.

There are other sources of exams and screenings for low-income, uninsured women. Contact:

During a Breast Cancer Exam

The doctor will review your health history; do a physical examination and a comprehensive breast exam. As needed, the doctor will refer you for additional tests, such as a mammogram ultrasound or other imaging tests. 

If the results indicate something suspicious for cancer, more than likely, you will be referred to a breast surgeon. After a breast exam and reviewing your imaging tests results, the surgeon will want a biopsy. A biopsy is the only way to know, for sure, if a lump or thickening is cancer.

All cells or tissues removed during the biopsy are sent to a pathologist for analysis, and to prepare a report on the findings.The results are shared with you.

A benign lump may require no further treatment.

If the biopsy shows cancer, you will need to begin cancer treatment.The breast surgeon will recommend a surgical procedure and discuss what is involved.


At this point, you need to decide where you want to have treatment. Even though you may be comfortable with the breast surgeon who examined you, getting a second opinion is always a good idea. Most insurance plans cover a second opinion.

Don't make a choice based on convenience. Choose a facility known for its cancer care. After you confirm your insurance covers this facility, ask your family doctor, or gynecologist to refer you to a breast surgeon there. A friend or family member, whose judgment you respect and who is a breast cancer survivor, is also a good referral source.

When you go for your appointment, bring someone with you for support and to take notes.

Jean Campbell is a 2x breast cancer survivor and the former founding director of the American Cancer Society New York City Patient Navigator Program in 14 public and private hospitals.She is executive director of a nonprofit organization providing research and resource information and support to women and men newly diagnosed with breast cancer.

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