Women should regularly examine their breasts for evidence of lumps or any other irregularities such as thickening, skin dimpling, nipple retraction and scaling around the nipple. They should also check for lumps under the armpit as well.
"We know the mammogram is not perfect and the physical examination is not perfect. Our chances are 90 percent of detecting cancer with the combination of those two methods," says radiologist Dr. Judy Destouet, head of mammography at Copeland, Hyman & Shackman.
What should a woman do if she feels a suspicious lump in her breast?
"If she is premenstrual, she should wait until after her cycle ends, then re-examine her breast. If it's still there, she should go and see her physician, whether or not she already had a check-up three weeks ago." Dr. Destouet sauys.
The next step is a consultation and perhaps another mammogram.
If the lump is not visible on the mammogram, the physician may decide to use ultrasound -- a sonogram -- to show whether the lump is solid or cyst-like. Another option at this point would be inserting a needle into the mass to see whether it is solid or filled with fluid.
If the mass is solid, the physician may decide to monitor it and wait for two menstrual cycles to see if it remains stable. If it enlarges, he may remove it and send it to pathology. It takes about 48 hours to analyze the specimen.