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Friday, June 04, 2010 Shana, Community Member, asks

Q: Mammogram shows a thickened area in right breast just behind nipple.

Following a swelling on my left axilla, I had an ultra sound on my left breast and then a mammogram.  It turns out that I have about 5 cysts in my left breasts.  However, the mammogram has spotted a thickening in the right breast! The report states that they suspect it could be a cyst or fibroadenoma (I think - I don't have a copy of the report). My doctor has sent me for an ultra sound and then to a breast specialist/surgeon to read the results - is this normal and should I be worried.  Can they tell the difference between presentationof a cyst or something more worrying from a mammogram?  My doctor said at this stage he is not too worried.  The reports states that the area is well defined and about 3.4cm. 

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Answers (1)
PJ Hamel, Health Guide
6/ 5/10 6:12am

Hi Shana - Fibrocystic change, which includes both fibroadenomas and cysts, is a condition experienced by many women, particularly pre-menopause, and most particularly in the 20s and 30s. Sounds like your doctor is being proactive here, in ordering further tests to see what this thickening is. A mammogram can't tell the difference between a cyst, or something solid; an ultrasound will do that. If the mass is solid, then they may decide to do a biopsy. But about 85% of biopsies are negative, so the statistics are definitely on your side here. Follow through with your tests and your visit with the breast specialist, and chances are you'll be diagnosed with a fibroadenoma; breast cancer needs to be ruled out, but it's the least likely cause of this. Best of luck - PJH

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Shana, Community Member
6/ 6/10 12:23am

Thank you for your reply.

 

I am 49.  Just out of interest can a doctor reading a mammogram tell from the general characeristics ie. size and shape if it is more likely to be a cyst or fibroadenoma, or something more serious?

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PJ Hamel, Health Guide
6/ 6/10 7:10am

I'd say they can make an informed guess, but only a biopsy can confirm/rule out cancer. A cyst will generally feel softer than a fibroadenoma or other tumor. And a breast cancer tumor often feels hard, regularly shaped (usually round), and fixed in place, while other growths may feel more irregularly shaped, "ropy," perhaps, and may be movaeable. But as I said - biopsy is the only surefire way to tell. Good luck to you as you go through this diagnositic process- PJH

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Phyllis Johnson, Health Guide
6/ 6/10 7:21am

Usually at my mammograms, an area would show up as a cyst or lump, and then the doctor would order an ultrasound.  On an ultrasound, fluid-filled cysts look distinctly different than solid lumps.  If the cyst was very large and/or painful, the doctor would drain it (different doc/new appointment), and I'd be fine until another cyst showed up.  To me the cysts tended to feel sort of flat and oval, but I don't know if that's typical.  The doctor might be able to guess whether it's a cyst, fibroadenoma or cancer, but it's important to move on to the ultrasounds and biopsies to be sure.  Unfortunately, I've known women whose breast cancer advanced while their doctors insisted that they could tell by size, shape, or texture that their lump was not cancer.

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Shana, Community Member
6/ 6/10 2:04pm

Thank you for your reply -  I'm having an ultra sound this week and then on to the breast specialist for results.  My doctors states that only an ultra sound could confirm, but I just wondered from the report that he as sent if they could hazard an educated guess what it's likely to be.

 

 

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By Shana, Community Member— Last Modified: 03/17/14, First Published: 06/04/10