When To Call Your Doctor
While in most cases a breast lump doesnt signal cancer, its still important to see your doctor as soon as you can. They may ask you questions about your history, like whether anyone in your family has been diagnosed with cancer, and whether youre having other symptoms.
Breast cancer treatment: The care you need is one call away
Your multidisciplinary team will work with you to develop a personalized plan to treat your breast cancer in a way that fits your individual needs and goals.
Finding A Health Care Provider
If you dont have a health care provider, one of the best ways to find a good one is to get a referral from a trusted family member or friend.
You can also call your local health department or a nearby hospital or clinic. If you have insurance, your insurance company may also have a list of health care providers in your area.
What Does A Tumor Feel Like Under The Skin
Lumps, tumors, and all sorts of things one can feel in the breast can feel surprisingly similar: firm, as opposed to the normal, more spongy tissue of the breast. They are often irregularly shaped as opposed to a sphere or ball shape. Lumps are also usually mobile within the breast and can be moved around within the breast.
However, its important to note that this can vary from person to person. Ultimately, anytime you feel something thats different from what your normal breast tissue feels like, or if you notice anything that generally feels unusual, you should speak to her medical team about that.
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Where Are Breast Cancer Lumps Usually Found
The most common area for breast cancer is the upper, outer section of the breast. Breast cancer can develop anywhere throughout the tissue of the breast. Although less common, the breast cancer location can be in the tail of the breast which is near the armpit. The cancer can be right underneath the skin, or deeper in the breasts tissue. In men, the most common site of breast tumors is behind the nipple.
Ductal Or Lobular Hyperplasia
Atypical lobular hyperplasia and atypical ductal hyperplasia are considered precancerous conditions. Atypical describes cells that look abnormal under a microscope, and hyperplasia means there is an overgrowth of cells. Breast tumors that have these characteristics are more likely to turn into cancer therefore, close monitoring or surgical excision is required to treat these conditions.
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How Are Fibroadenomas Diagnosed And Treated
Your healthcare provider may diagnose this type of lump simply by feeling it. But, he or she will want to confirm the diagnosis with a mammogram or ultrasound and fine-needle aspiration. Sometimes, in very young women, the fibroadenoma is not removed. However, since sometimes these tumors enlarge with pregnancy and breastfeeding, your provider may suggest having it surgically removed.
While most fibroadenomas do not lead to cancer, there is a type of fibroadenoma that has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, particularly in women with a family history of the disease.
What Do Lumps In My Breast Mean
Many conditions can cause lumps in the breast, including cancer. But most breast lumps are caused by other medical conditions. The two most common causes of breast lumps are fibrocystic breast condition and cysts. Fibrocystic condition causes noncancerous changes in the breast that can make them lumpy, tender, and sore. Cysts are small fluid-filled sacs that can develop in the breast.
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Common Causes Of Benign Breast Lumps
Most benign breast lumps and conditions are directly related to your menstrual cycle, to fluctuations in your hormones, and to the fluid buildup that comes with your monthly period. Other benign breast lumps and conditions may be related to plugged milk ducts, infections, or even breast injuries. The risk for benign breast conditions increases for women who have never had children and those who have a history of irregular menstrual cycles or a family history of breast cancer.
Here are some of the most common benign breast conditions.
Fibrocystic changes These changes cause a general lumpiness that can be described as ropy or granular, and affect at least half of all women. Symptoms of fibrocystic change include tender, fibrous, rubbery tissue a thickening of tissue or a round, fluid-filled cyst. These changes, which are related to hormonal fluctuation, may increase as you approach middle age and disappear with menopause. Sometimes doctors recommend limiting salt and caffeine consumption to ease fluid buildup. Birth control pills may also ease symptoms.
Mastitis An infection of the milk duct, mastitis can create a lumpy, red, and warm breast, accompanied by fever. It occurs most commonly in women who are breastfeeding, but can occur in non-breastfeeding women as well. Treatment involves warm compresses and antibiotics. Because these symptoms are similar to inflammatory breast cancer, if they occur in a non-breastfeeding woman a doctor may want to do a biopsy.
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Not All Lumps Are Cancerous
People may commonly experience normal lumps in their breasts. These lumps are called fibroadenomas and are not cancerous, according to Dr. Patt.
Lombardi added shes heard many women say they experience lumps in their breasts during their period. These lumps may be somewhat painful, and the breasts will get sore, Lombardi said. Also, some women get cysts, and these need to be drained in some cases. All breast lumps should be evaluated by your doctor.
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Common Causes Of Breast Lumps
Fibroadenomas. These are the most common benign lumps. If you push on them, they are solid, round, rubbery lumps that move freely. Theyâre usually painless. Women between 20 and 30 get them most often. Theyâre also more common in African-American women. Fibroadenomas can be surgically removed.
Fibrocystic changes. Changes in hormones during your menstrual cycles can create changes in your breasts. These are known as fibrocystic breast changes. You could get lumps in both breasts that increase in size and tenderness just before your period. You might have nipple discharge as well.
The lumps are milk ducts and tissues around them that have grown and widened to form cysts. These enlarge quickly in response to hormones released near your period. The lumps may be hard or rubbery and could feel like a single lump. Fibrocystic changes can also cause breast tissue to thicken.
These changes are often most noticeable during your 40s. Theyâre the most common cause of benign breast lumps in women ages 35 to 50. Postmenopausal women are less likely to have these types of breast changes. Thatâs because they donât have monthly changes in hormones.
They donât require treatment, but your doctor may recommend ways to ease monthly tenderness.
Simple cysts. Simple cysts are fluid-filled sacs that usually affect both breasts. You could have one or many. They can vary in size. Their tenderness and size often change with your menstrual cycle.
What Causes Breast Lumps And Pain
Many possible causes exist for pain or tenderness in one of your breasts or both breasts. Most often the pain can be attributed to harmless causes such as puberty or pregnancy. It can also be a recurrent problem for women with cyclical pain associated with the menstrual cycle. Although cancer is a major concern for most women, it is rarely the cause of isolated breast pain.
Some causes of breast pain are:
- Fibrocystic breast disease
- Breast cancer
If you lump your breast, your doctor will check for the following:
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What Should I Do If I Find A Breast Lump
See your doctor if you discover any new breast changes, such as:
- An area thatâs clearly different from any other area on either breast
- A lump or thickened area in or near the breast or underarm that lasts through your menstrual cycle
- A change in breast size, shape, or contour
- A mass or lump. It could be as small as a pea or feel like a marble under your skin.
- A change in how the skin on your breast or nipple looks or feels. It could be dimpled, puckered, scaly, or inflamed.
- Clear or bloody fluid coming out of the nipple
- Red skin on your breast or nipple
What Is Breast Cancer
Breast cancer occurs when cells in the breast become abnormal and grow out of control. Breast lumps arent always the earliest sign of breast cancer, as outlined below. When cancerous lumps do appear, they usually feel firmer than the other tissue, may move around or may be fixed on the chest wall. Lumps are usually painless, but not always.
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Can I Learn To Feel The Difference
Yes, fingers are exquisitely well designed to detect the difference between normal breast tissue because suspicious lumps are tactually different. There have been many attempts to describe in words or on videos what our fingers feel during a breast exam. Words like hard, soft, irregular shape, defined borders, fixed, or movable can be useful, but to get it right we must teach our fingers, not just hear about it with our ears or viewing videos or by reading instructions. As one woman reported after practicing the correct technique, you cant palpate a pamphlet.
When To Seek Medical Care
Breast lumps ideally should be checked about one week after your period starts. Fibrocystic changes in the breast are usually irregular and mobile, and you may find more than one lump. Cancerous tumors are usually hard and firm and do not typically move a great deal.
- You have any abnormal discharge from your nipples.
- Breast pain is making it difficult for you to function each day.
- You have prolonged, unexplained breast pain.
- You have any other associated symptoms that you are worried about. You should see a doctor if you experience any changes in your breasts.
- A mass or tender lump in the breast that does not disappear after nursing
- Changes in the skin
- Any of these symptoms with or without fever
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How Do Breast Cancer Lumps Feel Like
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Swelling In Or Around Your Breast Collarbone Or Armpit
Swelling in these areas can occur for many reasons but may indicate cancer. Breast swelling can be caused by certain types of breast cancer. Swelling or lumps around your collarbone or armpits can be caused by breast cancer that has spread to lymph nodes in those areas. The swelling can occur even before you can feel a lump in your breast. If you have swelling, be sure to let your health care team know as soon as possible.
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What Causes Breast Cancer
The cause of breast cancer is unknown, but certain risk factors are linked to the disease.
Risk factors for breast cancer include:
- Being a woman
- Use of hormonal birth control
- Hormone replacement therapy for menopause, particularly estrogen and progesterone
- Family history or personal history of breast cancer
- Dense breast tissue
- Ethnicity: White women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer during their lifetime, but African-American women are more likely to develop breast cancer under age 45
- Certain benign breast conditions
- Early onset menstruation
- Menopause after age 55
- Radiation to the chest
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How To Know If A Lump Is Breast Cancer
Most lumps in the breast are from noncancerous causes and some of them even go away on their own. Because there are various causes of lumps occurring in the breast, it is important to consult your doctor as soon as you notice any changes.
Lumps in the breast can occur from other causes than cancer. These lumps can result from:
- Breast cyst: often round, hard, and smooth, this dilated milk duct is filled with fluid. These can be visible before your menstrual cycle begins and will disappear or get smaller afterwards. Breast cysts can vary in size and the tissue nearby may feel tender the larger it gets.
- Fibroadenomas: These noncancerous tumors grow over time and feel smooth. Fibroadenomas are solid but move easily under the skin. These tumors are associated with hormone therapy, menstruation, or being pregnant.
- Infection or injury to the breast: When infected fluid called abscess builds up, it can cause a breast lump that is usually painful and inflames the surrounding skin. These lumps can also occur when the tissue or nerves in the breast are damaged. When this occurs, it is called fat necrosis.
- Fibrocystic breast changes: The breasts feel full, tender, and there can be lumps or areas that feel ridgelike. These changes are related to the menstrual cycles and often clear up once the cycle is finished.