Screenings can be disconcerting, but don’t let the jargon confuse or needlessly worry you. A crib sheet.

By Cara Birnbaum
Updated January 14, 2009
Carey Sookocheff
  • Calcification: Calcium deposits that show up in breast tissue and are typically benign. Depending on how they appear in a mammogram, your doctor may order more testing to rule out cancer.
  • Cyst: A fluid-filled sac that might feel especially painful just before your menstrual period. True cysts are benign and can be easily drained by your doctor. If the fluid shows any traces of blood, it will probably be further tested for cancerous cells.
  • Image-Guided Biopsy: Using a mammogram, MRI, or ultrasound machine to pinpoint the exact location of a suspicious mass, your doctor inserts a needle into the mass and removes a sample of cells for testing.
  • Lump: A bulge or a growth that you or your doctor feels in your breast. Most lumps turn out to be benign cysts, but all lumps should be checked by a doctor.
  • Mass: While a lump is something felt in your breast, a mass is something seen on an imaging test. Most masses are harmless, but your doctor may recommend additional testing to be sure.
  • Needle Biopsy: A doctor uses a fine needle to sample breast tissue or lymph nodes. A “core biopsy” does the same thing, only the needle is thicker. Both are far less invasive than surgical biopsies and are almost always just as accurate.
  • Surgical Biopsy: The removal of all or some of a suspicious mass. More extensive than a needle or a core biopsy, this requires an incision and some form of anesthesia.