Breast Changes And Conditions
As you await follow-up test results, remember that most breast changes are not cancer.
You may have just received an abnormal mammogram result, or perhaps you or your health care provider found a breast lump or other breast change. Keep in mind that breast changes are very common, and most are not cancer. This page can help you learn about symptoms during your lifetime that are not cancer as well as follow-up tests used to diagnose breast conditions and treatments for specific breast conditions.
What Is A Fibroadenoma
Fibroadenomas are solid, smooth, firm, noncancerous lumps that are most commonly found in women in their 20s and 30s. They are the most common benign lumps in women and can occur at any age. They are increasingly being seen in postmenopausal women who are taking hormone therapy.
The painless lump feels rubbery and moves around freely. You may find one yourself. Fibroadenomas vary in size and can grow anywhere in the breast tissue.
How Quickly Does A Breast Cancer Tumor Grow
On average, the doubling time for a breast cancer tumor, or time for a tumor to double in size, is approximately 50 to 200 days. The growth rate of a breast tumor varies based on the type of breast cancer, tumor characteristics, the age of the patient at diagnosis, and menopausal status. Inflammatory breast cancer tumors and triple negative breast cancer tumors tend to grow faster than estrogen receptor positive and HER2 negative tumors.
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Other Changes In The Breasts
You may see or feel other changes in your breasts.
See a health care provider if you notice any of these warning signs of breast cancer :
- Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
- Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
- Change in the size or shape of the breast
- Dimpling or puckering of the skin
- Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
- Pulling in of the nipple or other parts of the breast
- Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
- New pain in one spot that doesnt go away
Pain in your breasts may be related to your menstrual period. However, if the pain doesnt go away, dont ignore it. Although pain is rarely a sign of breast cancer, its best to see a provider to be sure.
Myth : A Lump Is Probably Harmless If There’s No Breast Cancer In Your Family
Many women think they’re not at risk for breast cancer if no one in their family has had it. But that’s not true.
Less than 15% of women with breast cancer have a relative who’s had the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.
Get all lumps checked by a doctor, whether or not breast cancer runs in your family.
What Will Happen At My Appointment
The doctor will ask questions about your health history. Theyll perform a breast exam to feel for lumps or other changes in the breast tissue and under your arms.
If theres fluid coming out of your nipple, the doctor may order blood tests to check hormone levels and collect a sample to check for abnormal cells.
They may also do a mammogram or ultrasound to see if the lump is solid or filled with fluid.
Your doctor may order a test called a biopsy. Theyll take a tiny sample of the lump with a needle or small cut and send it to a lab.
What Does Normal Breast Tissue Feel Like
Not all lumps in the breasts are malignant . As one MyBCTeam member wrote, Keep in mind that breasts are naturally fibrous and lumpy and often change with your menstrual cycle and hormone changes.
Its true women commonly have irregularities and lumpy areas in their breast tissues. Whats more, the structures in and around the breasts may sometimes be detectable as small bumps. The lymph nodes and milk lobes, for instance, may feel like soft beans or soft peas.
As another member shared, I was told some small lumps are normal. You just have to get to know what your normal is. This is great advice familiarizing yourself with your breast tissue will help you understand when something feels different or if a new lump appears.
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How To Make Breast Self
Make it routine. The more you examine your breasts, the more you will learn about them and the easier it will become for you to tell if something has changed. Try to get in the habit of doing a breast self-examination once a month to familiarize yourself with how your breasts normally look and feel. Examine yourself several days after your period ends, when your breasts are least likely to be swollen and tender. If you are no longer having periods, choose a day that’s easy to remember, such as the first or last day of the month.
Get to know your breasts’ different neighborhoods. The upper, outer area near your armpit tends to have the most prominent lumps and bumps. The lower half of your breast can feel like a sandy or pebbly beach. The area under the nipple can feel like a collection of large grains. Another part might feel like a lumpy bowl of oatmeal.
Start a journal where you record the findings of your breast self-exams. This can be like a small map of your breasts, with notes about where you feel lumps or irregularities. Especially in the beginning, this may help you remember, from month to month, what is normal for your breasts. It is not unusual for lumps to appear at certain times of the month, but then disappear, as your body changes with the menstrual cycle .
Learn more about Breastcancer.org’s recommendations on when to begin annual mammograms.
Signs Of Breast Cancer That Aren’t A Lump
For decades, the medical community and the media have waged an effective awareness campaign about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, educating the public about the importance of diligently monitoring their breasts for lumps. And the tactic has worked. Early detection has contributed to a 39 percent decline in breast cancer deaths in women from 1989 to 2015, according to the American Cancer Society. While thats an important step forward, many other abnormalities that may also indicate breast cancer are lesser known and discussed. Some, then, may be led to assume that no lump and no tumor mean no cancer, but that may be a dangerous conclusion to draw.
The majority of the publicity assigned to breast cancer is a lump, and the majority of patients might feel a mass in the breast, but there are definitely other symptoms besides a lump, says Ricardo H. Alvarez, MD, MSc, who leads the Breast Cancer Center Institute at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® . Visual changes may be especially key in helping detect breast cancer early.
You can see a lot of things just by looking at your breasts in the mirror. When your arms are by your side, you don’t always see everything. Put your hands on your hips or raise them up. Having arms in two different positions while looking is also helpful.– Cynthia Lynch, MD, Medical Oncologist at our hospital near Phoenix
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When To Make An Appointment For A Breast Lump
If a breast lump could be harmful, make an appointment for a medical professional to evaluate it soon. Dont wait until your next appointment. Signs its a good idea to make an appointment include breast lumps that:
- cant be moved with your fingers
- grow over time
- dont cause pain or tenderness
- have bumpy surfaces
Home Remedies For Painful Lump In Breast
In most cases, breast lumps occur in women who are aged between 30-50 years. There are numerous home remedies you can use to treat painful lumps on your breasts however, you have to take caution not to treat at home a condition that is beyond your understanding. The home treatments involve the following:
This will be very helpful in the case your breast is tender with increased inflammation due to a painful breast lump. While using ice do not allow it directly on your skin as it may damage the skin cells. Just crush some ice in a plastic bag and cover it with a towel before b applying it on the affected area. Remove after every ten minutes until you start feeling some relief.
In case you cannot access ice pack, you may use a hot pack which may deliver same results. A warm compress is said to facilitate faster movement of fluids to and from the affected area hence relieving the swelling caused by a painful lump on your breast. Dip a face towel in warm water and apply it on the affected breast. Repeat the process severally until the water loses the warmth. Do it at least twice in a day for several days until you realize some improvements.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a painless, hard lump around the breast area or under the armpit. However, any type of lump, whether it’s soft, tender, or even painful, could be a cancerous mass.
That’s why it’s not always possible to distinguish cancerous from non-cancerous lumps without a clinical exam, imaging, or breast biopsy, says , Yale Medicine breast oncologist at the Yale Cancer Center. Therefore, it’s important to see a health care professional if you notice any changes in your breasts.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists no longer recommends people with average breast cancer risk regularly perform self-exams as there is no evidence doing so improves outcomes. However, many people may still want to routinely check their breasts for peace of mind or because they have a higher risk of breast cancer.
Myth : A Breast Lump Is Probably Cancer
Most breast lumps women feel — 8 out of 10 — aren’t cancer. It’s more common for them to be a cyst or a fibroadenoma . Some lumps come and go during a woman’s menstrual cycle.
You can’t tell what it is by how it feels.
“It’s always important to know your own body and detect a change which may need to be evaluated,” says Beth Overmoyer, director of the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. “If it is cancer, then you may have saved your life.”
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Myth : If You Feel A Lump Soon After A Mammogram It’s Ok To Wait Another Year
Call your doctor if you notice a lump soon after your latest mammogram, even if the results were normal. Mammograms can miss some cancers, especially if you have dense breast tissue or if the lump is in an awkward location .
“The doctor should only suggest a ‘watch-and-wait’ approach after the appropriate breast imaging has been normal and nothing suspicious can be felt,” Scheer says.
What Happens At The Breast Clinic
At the hospital or breast clinic, you may have a:
- breast examination
- scan usually a breast X-ray or ultrasound
- biopsy where a needle is inserted into the lump to remove some cells for testing
These tests are often done during the same visit. You’ll usually be told the results on the same day, although biopsy results take longer you may have to wait about a week.
Breast Cancer Now has more information about what to expect at a breast clinic appointment.
Treatment for a breast lump depends on the cause. Most are harmless and may go away on their own without treatment.
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Things That Can Cause A Lump In Your Breasts
According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. However, if you feel a lump, it is important to know what factors may be causing this change in the texture of your breast tissue – as cancer may not always be the culprit. Here are seven reasons why a lump may develop in the breast, and what to do if you suspect you may be experiencing one of these issues.
How Big Are Breast Cancer Lumps
That said, the longer a cancerous lump grows, the greater the risk of cancer spreading to other parts of the body. This is why it is important that people speak with a doctor as soon as they notice a lump in their breast of any size.
Benign breast lumps are non-cancerous, and it is normal for people to have them at some point during their lives. Cysts and fibroadenomas are examples of benign breast lumps.
According to Breastcancer.org, symptoms of benign breast lumps include:
- general breast pain
- nipple pain
- yellow or green discharge from the nipple
However, some types of breast cancer also present with these symptoms, so it is important that a person speaks with a doctor as soon as they notice any changes in their breast.
Also, some benign breast conditions can increase the risk of a person developing breast cancer later in life. In these cases, a doctor will draw up a treatment plan and monitor the breast for any changes.
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Can Men Have Breast Lumps
Yes. Men can develop a condition called gynecomastia. The male breast becomes enlarged and sometimes tender. A breast lump may also form underneath the nipple. Gynecomastia often occurs in both breasts. This condition can be related to a hormonal imbalance or a side effect of medication, although additional workup may be considered to determine a cause. Most often, a cause is never determined it is called idiopathic.
Men can also develop breast cancer, so if you feel a lump in your breast, see your healthcare provider for an evaluation.
When A Breast Lump Is An Emergency
A breast lump along with other signs could mean you should seek emergency care. If you have breast cancer that has begun to spread, an appointment cant wait. Its best to seek urgent medical care if you have a hard breast lump and:
- you are experiencing bloody nipple discharge
- your nipples have changed appearance or become inverted
- you have a fever
- the glands under your arms are swollen
A lump along with any of these signs doesnt always mean you have invasive breast cancer or even breast cancer at all. However, because breast cancer is most treatable when its caught early, its important not to wait.
Again, its always best to follow your instincts. If you have a hard lump in your breast and are concerned something is seriously wrong, make an appointment.
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What Are Some Common Types Of Benign Breast Lumps
There are many possible causes of non-cancerous breast lumps. Two of the most common causes of benign single breast lumps are cysts and fibroadenomas. In addition, several other conditions can present themselves as lumps, such as fat necrosis and sclerosing adenosis. Only your healthcare provider can diagnose your breast lump.
What Should I Do If I Find A Breast Lump
See your doctor if you discover any new breast changes, such as:
- An area thats 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
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Possible Cause Breast Tissue Changes
Breast tissue has natural lumps and bumps that you may feel, and you might just be more likely than others to develop lumps in your breasts.
If you feel the same lumpiness in both breasts, or there isnt one lump thats firmer than the others, its most likely your normal breast tissue. That said, if you find a lump that feels harder, in only one breast, or one that just feels different than what you usually feel, address it with your doctor.
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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