One hundred patients referred to a teaching hospital breast clinic for as yet undiagnosed breast masses were interviewed during their first visits and prior to assessment by a surgeon. Baseline measures of mental state and coping style were obtained. Despite the purpose of their visits, 74 of the patients were "nonidentifiers" of the breast lump as a problem on their initial contact with the clinic. All patients who were non-identifiers also used denial as a coping mechanism. Nonidentifiers used more than three times the number of avoidant coping mechanisms than "identifiers." Patients with a family history of breast cancer were more likely to be identifiers than those without a family history.