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I Felt a Lump. Now What?

Discovering a lump in your breast can be an alarming experience, one that often triggers a wave of worry and concern. This initial shock can lead to numerous questions and doubts, but it is important to remember you are not alone.

About 40% of breast lumps are detected by women during a breast self-exam. This makes self-exams an important aspect of breast health.

“When a woman feels a lump, there can be a sense of, ‘OK, what is going on?’” said Elizabeth Kraft, M.D., a breast surgeon at Hoag’s Breast Center. “Don’t panic. Most lumps felt in the breast do not turn out to be cancer. However, sometimes lumps can be a sign of breast cancer, so it is important to take action when you discover a lump in your breast that persists for more than two or three weeks. Remember that taking that first step towards addressing the lump is an act of self-care.”

Other important steps to take, include:

Take a deep breath. While deep breathing itself may not directly address the lump or its cause, it can be a valuable tool to help you manage the emotional and psychological impact of the situation.


Consult with your medical provider. Your Hoag gynecologist and primary care provider are your wellness partners. They will help guide you through scheduling proper diagnostic tests such as a mammogram, ultrasound and/or biopsy.


Get your imaging. “A lump that you can feel is only part of the story. Imaging (which may include a mammogram and/or ultrasound depending on your age and history) can help determine if a lump is benign (not cancer) or in need of additional evaluation like a breast biopsy.” said Dr. Kraft. A mammogram uses low dose X-rays to create images of the breast and an ultrasound uses sound waves. Mammograms require gradual pressure on your breast to achieve the clearest images possible, but each image only takes 2-4 seconds. During your mammogram or ultrasound, your Hoag technologist will guide you through the procedure and after your diagnostic imaging is complete, a dedicated breast radiologist will explain your results to you in person.

Follow up. “It is important to take the necessary follow-up steps,” Dr. Kraft said. A biopsy may be recommended if an imaging test doesn’t provide enough information about the lump. This procedure involves inserting a needle into the lump to collect a small sample of cells or tissue for testing.


Remember most breast lumps are benign and early evaluation will provide peace of mind and guide you on the path to the best possible care and support. Your health is a priority and Hoag is here to help you navigate this process with care and expertise.