Mammogram Exam - Standing Or Laying Down? Cancer Lumps Soft & Move Or Hard & Stationary?

Question

Asked by Teri

Mammogram Exam - Standing Or Laying Down? Cancer Lumps Soft & Move Or Hard & Stationary?

Yesterday at my mammogram appointment the doctor found 2 lumps. She made me aware during the physical exam. She then cancelled my mammogram appointment and has re-scheduled me for an ultrasound. This was my first visit to this doctor.

In the past I have been told by a doctor to do my monthly exam while in the shower right after my period. This new doctor said that I should be laying on my back.

In the past I have been told, once again by a doctor, that a possible cancerous lump will be hard and not move. The new doctor told me No, they are soft and do move around. The 2 lumps found yesterday are soft and move around. I noticed them about 9 months ago but thought they were no big deal because of what I had previously been told.

Over the years at these appointments the first question asked is,"Do you have a family history of breast cancer?" With a false sense of security (that I have just discovered) I have always answered with a jubilant No. Based on the research that I have done today it appears that the answer to that question, whether yes or no, doesn't really mean a thing. Why do the doctors even ask it as they walk in the door? Read the information on the 6 pages you had me fill out before seeing you. The question has always seemed so important but most of all for me, I thought my answer was just as important. I guess not now.

Could you please clarify these issues for me?

Frankly, I'm rather scared and somewhat angry.

Thank you so much - Teri

Answer

Sounds like you're getting some confusing and conflicting information, Teri. Let's start with breast self-exams. The American Cancer Society has quit recommending them, as they don't seem to lessen your chance of dying from breast cancer. Seems weird, huh? But it makes sense - rather than try to remember each month to do a BSE at a certain time, in a certain particular way, the recommendation now is to simply be aware of how your breasts feel at different times of the month, and then be aware of any changes. In Canada, they call it TLC: Touch, look, check. So you're not stuck with trying to remember a schedule or a routine; just know what your breasts feel like normally, feel them often (I just do a quick once-over in the shower every day), and be awareof anything that feels different.

As for tumors: it's not impossible for a cancerous tumor to be soft and move around, but it's very uncommon. In general, cancer tumors are hard and stationary; benign cysts are soft and move around. Not to say somehting that feels soft and moves around can't be cancer, but it's much less likely to be. I think that's probably why you're going for an ultrasound, rather than a mammogram; ultrasounds do a great job at identifying cysts. If what they see doesn't appear to be a cyst, then you'd probably have a biopsy. But don't panic - 85% of lumps that are biopsied are benign.

And family history - I believe the stats are 85% of women who get breast cancer have no family history, and 75% have no risk factors at all. It's very random. I'm sure they were asking you about family history not to rule you out as a possible candidate, but to rule you "in" as someone to keep a particular eye on. I can understand your anger, and fear; you have every right to those emotions. It's hard thinking you may have cancer; the thought can consume you. But understand that the statistics are certainly on your side; if you're still having your period, then you're still fairly young. Although younger women DO get breast cancer, it's much more common once you're over 60.

So hang tough; I hope the ultrasound shows cysts, and nothing more. And if your doctor or doctors don't know that the ACS no longer recommends breast self exams, maybe you could enlighten them. Rememebr TLC - and good luck as you go forward. - PJH