By: Katrina Burton, MD Anderson Staff Writer
Finding a breast lump can be an alarming experience, but what's most important is the steps taken to evaluate it. Prompt evaluation of any breast concern is critical to early detection of breast cancer. Early detection of breast cancer improves the odds of successful treatment.
The Undiagnosed Breast Clinic at MD Anderson's Cancer Prevention Center (CPC) offers an evaluation of breast concerns. Services include evaluation for:
- a suspicious lump on the breast;
- an abnormal mammogram or breast ultrasound; and
- for those who seek a second opinion about a lump or other breast abnormality.
For most women, the evaluation starts with an exam. After review of any outside imaging, a diagnostic workup is performed. "Roughly 85% of breast lumps found are noncancerous," says Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director in the CPC. "Still, it's important to have any breast lump promptly evaluated."
The novelty of the Undiagnosed Breast Clinic is that most patients receive results by the end of the day of their initial visit. Although it may take a few additional days for some patients to receive results when biopsies are done, they can rest assured that it is an expert opinion about whether the lump is cancerous or benign.
Brenda Mcnaughton, an MD Anderson employee and recent patient in the clinic, was able to experience the clinic's personalized care and quick response to her concerns when she went in for an evaluation of a mass found on her breast.
After undergoing a mammogram, ultrasound and a fine needle aspiration, Mcnaughton received her results the same day she went in for tests. Her diagnosis turned out to be benign.
"It was a relief to find out the results so quickly and to be given follow-up suggestions even though the finding was benign," Mcnaughton says.
Getting an appointment
"Another benefit of the clinic is that no physician referral is needed," says Margaret Bell, clinical administrative director of the CPC. Bell leads the team, oversees the scheduling and business end of the CPC, and consults directly with Bevers on clinic operations.
Bevers explains that the clinic makes every accommodation to see patients as quickly as it can, based on the level of concern. "Our service goal is not only to accurately diagnose patients, but also give them peace of mind," Bevers says. Patients diagnosed with cancer are referred to the Breast Center for treatment recommendations.
Other services provided in the Cancer Prevention Center include:
- breast cancer risk assessment, including a genetics evaluation when family history is a factor;
- breast cancer screening;
- counseling regarding healthy lifestyle choices to reduce cancer risk; and
- prescription of medications to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer for women at increased risk of the disease.
Bevers points out the need for women not to wait until a breast abnormality is found, but to be proactive in following the recommended guidelines for screening. "Early detection is the key to preventing and surviving breast cancer."
Patients can refer themselves to MD Anderson Cancer Center for cancer diagnosis, treatment, screening, or a second opinion about a lump or other abnormality. Visit the Contact Us site to use the online self-referral form.