If you find a lump in your breast, your first thought might be “breast cancer.” But most breast lumps are benign, which means they are non-cancerous. You might be surprised to learn that breast lumps can occur in men and women, girls and boys. All humans have breast tissue, and lumps can form within any breast tissue. Many lumps appear and disappear during times of hormonal fluctuation, like during puberty. Breast lumps are not uncommon in girls or boys during puberty.
Breast lumps are masses that develop in breast tissue. Not all lumps are the same. They vary in look and feel.
If you have a breast lump, you might notice:
- an obvious lump with defined borders, kind of like a pea or a grape, depending on the size of the lump
- a firm or hard area in your breast
- an area of thickened tissue in the breast that feels different than the tissue around it
- accompanying breast changes, like skin redness or dimples
- a new difference in the size or shape of one breast, so one is now larger (or smaller) than the other
In addition to the breast lump, you might notice nipple changes, nipple discharge, or breast pain or tenderness. The pain may increase at certain times during your menstrual cycle.
Causes of breast lumps
There are many possible causes of a breast lump, including: breast cancer
- breast cysts
- fibrocystic breasts
- trauma or injury to the breast
- intraductal papilloma
- milk cyst
How are breast lumps and tumors detected?
Often, breast lumps and tumors are found during annual breast exams or monthly breast self-exams. That’s why it’s so important for you to see your doctor every year to be checked for signs of breast cancer and other gynecologic cancers. You should also perform breast self-exams every month. This is the best way to detect changes in your breast that could require medical attention.
Breast lumps and tumors may also be found during screening or diagnostic mammograms, or just incidentally, like when you put on deodorant, you might notice a lump in your armpit near your breast.
How can you tell if a breast lump is cancerous or benign?
There’s no way to tell for sure whether a breast lump is benign without some sort of testing; however, about 80 percent of breast lumps are non-cancerous, and there are some characteristics of benign breast lumps that help doctors make a diagnosis.
Some of the tests your doctor may perform or order in addition to doing a physical exam of your breasts are:
These tests will help determine the type of lump or, if the lump is malignant, what type of cancer you have.
When should you see a doctor about a lump in your breast?
Breast lumps are not always cancer, and they are not always cause for alarm. You should know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and should perform breast self-exams every month to check for lumps or any other changes in your breast tissue.
And while a breast lump is not likely to be cancerous, it’s still important to have it evaluated by your physician.
Make an appointment with a Beaumont doctor for a breast lump evaluation, especially if:
- the lump seems fixed or feels firm
- the lump has not gone away in four to six weeks
- you have skin changes on your breast in addition to the lump (changes like redness, dimpling, crusting, or puckering)
- one area of your breast is obviously different from the rest
- you have breast pain
- you have unexplained bruising on your breast
- you have nipple discharge of any kind
- your nipple is inverted or abnormally positioned you are noticing lumps in your armpit that are getting bigger
For a referral to a Beaumont breast care doctor, call 800-633-7377