The female breast is composed of fatty tissue, interspersed with fibrous or connective tissue. The circular region around the nipple is often a different color or pigmentation. This region is called the areola.
Early detection of a breast lump is very important to your prognosis (probable outcome). Also, remember that most breast lumps are not diagnosed at the doctor's office. They are detected by women who give themselves breast self-examinations at home. All breast lumps that persist beyond a few days must be reported to your doctor. In some cases, a needle aspiration of a breast lump can be performed. If the tissue obtained is clearly not cancerous (if blood wasn't seen on the aspirator, or if the lump disappears after aspiration and does not recur), physicians will often simply observe patients. Otherwise, the breast lump must be removed surgically to determine if cancer is present.
A breast lump may either be a cyst filled with fluid or a solid mass of tissue. A sample of the breast tissue (biopsy) must be made to determine whether malignant (cancerous) cells are present. Almost two-thirds of all breast lumps are benign, but the chance of a malignant lump is greatly increased if you are past the age of menopause. While you are awake and pain-free (using local anesthesia) or asleep and pain-free (using general anesthesia), an incision is made over the lump. The incision for a lumpectomy is usually around 3 to 4 centimeters long. The incision will also depend on the size of the lump that needs to be removed. After the lump is removed in one piece, it is sent to the laboratory for immediate examination.
The outcome of the lumpectomy depends on the type of lump found. If the lump is benign (whether it is needle aspirated or excised), no further treatment is required. If the lump is malignant, the outcome depends on the degree to which the tumor has spread. Radiation therapy may be used in addition to surgery. In certain cases of malignant lumps, lumpectomy followed by radiation therapy is as effective as a radical mastectomy. Typically, lumpectomy does not require a breast replacement (prosthesis).