No matter how your breast lump was discovered, the doctor will want to begin with your "history": What symptoms do you have and how long have you had them? What is your age, menstrual status, general health? Are you pregnant? Are you taking any medications? How many children do you have? Do you have any relatives with benign breast conditions or breast cancer? Have you previously been diagnosed with benign breast changes?
The doctor will then carefully examine your breasts and will probably schedule you for mammography. If you have a symptom suggestive of breast cancer, whether it was found through BSE, the annual exam, or by chance, you should not hesitate to have a mammogram if your doctor recommends it.
Mammography for diagnosis, as distinct from mammography for screening women who have no symptoms, is designed to obtain as much information as possible about an existing change. This may be either a lump that can be felt or an abnormality discovered on a screening mammogram. Diagnostic mammography may include additional views or use special techniques to magnify a suspicious area or to eliminate shadows produced by overlapping layers of normal breast tissue. The doctor will want to compare the diagnostic mammograms with any previous mammograms. If the lump appears to be a cyst, your doctor may ask you to have a sonogram (ultrasound study).