How Long Should I Wait to Have The Same Breast Lump Reevaluated?

Question: If I have a breast lump the doctor does not feel is cancer, is it acceptable to wait for a month or more before I have it evaluated again?

Answer: One of the most frequent approaches to evaluating complaints in the breast is, in a sense, the danger of time. Women who identify a lump and have it evaluated by their primary care physician may feel that the lump isn't highly suspicious and one of the prudent things to do is, rather than just saying that there is no further evaluation that's necessary, we will often tell a patient that they should return within a short interval, usually measured in weeks, to reevaluate the same area.

The reason we do this is because over the course of a menstrual cycle, a woman's exam may change and this is the result of changes in hormones that are circulating through the body. When that occurs, with the fluctuation in hormones, for instance, cysts can change in shape and size. Some that are present can diminish; some that are small can get enlarged. So the exam can change over the course of the month.

By having the patient return within a short interval, you may find that there is something you can clearly palpate earlier on has completely disappeared. And as a consequence, an evaluation that might have included imaging, biopsies and so forth wasn't necessary.

That said, if there is something persistent or growing when the patient returns, or if the complaint is still persistent despite a normal exam, the patient should insist that a further evaluation be done.

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