Breast lumps often benign; see a doctor, but don't panic
Posted April 10, 2013
Durham, N.C. — Increased breast cancer awareness in recent years has also led to anxiety when women go in for screening, but doctors say that even suspicious results are no reason to panic.
Dr. Tammy Jenkins, 53, says she has had more suspicious lumps in her breasts than she can count, starting in her late 20s. So, she knows first-hand the fear that follows.
"I think it's natural for you to assume the worst: 'This is going to be breast cancer.' It does create a lot of anxiety," she said.
But each and every time, follow-up exams proved the lumps were benign.
Dr. Lisa Tolnitch, breast surgeon at Duke University Hospital, says about 80 percent of masses and mammogram abnormalities are benign. The non-malignant lesions can appear on imaging in many different ways, so needle biopsies are often required to confirm a diagnosis.
While women wait for results, tensions can be high.
"In their mind, they're filling out their last will and testament," said Dr. Gail Dilalla, also a breast surgeon at Duke. "The anxiety builds the longer they wait."
Dilalla prefers streamlining the testing and getting back to patients with the results.
"Being able to call somebody (to say) that it's benign is great," she said.
Jenkins says she no longer assumes that irregularities are cancer, but she doesn't ignore them either.
"I know right away that the first thing to do is to see my physician," she said.