Look For Other Breast Changes
A woman can have breast cancer without noticing any changes in breast lumps. As one MyBCTeam member shared, I never felt a lump or had any tenderness in my breasts. In fact, some cases of breast cancer are first detected when the nipples change in appearance, secrete fluids, or become tender, or when the breasts skin becomes dimpled or puckered.
The same member went on to note that other symptoms helped point to a diagnosis of breast cancer: What I did have was a flattening of my nipples. No tenderness or pain just that my nipples didnt get erect anymore and were inverted. And a year before, I had a blood clot in my lung. Found out later that these can both be signs of breast cancer.
Let your doctor know if you experience any other symptoms of breast cancer, such as nipple discharge, skin dimpling, or swelling in the surrounding tissues . According to the Stony Brook Cancer Center, any abnormality in the size, texture, shape, or nipple of just one breast rather than both may be more dangerous than changes affecting both breasts symmetrically.
How Is Benign Breast Disease Diagnosed
If you feel a lump or notice breast changes, see your healthcare provider immediately. Sometimes a mammogram or your healthcare provider first detects a change. Your provider may order one or more of these tests:
- Imaging scans, including mammogram, ultrasounds or magnetic resonance imaging .
- Lab test of nipple discharge to check for cancer cells.
- Image-guided core needle breast biopsy, fine-needle aspiration biopsy or excisional biopsy to test cells for cancer.
How To Tell If A Lump Might Be Cancerous
How they feel Hard, and they dont hurt or move. You would find one in the lower half of the neck.
Why they pop up The cause of thyroid nodules is not known. After verifying that yours is benign, your M.D. might simply monitor you. If you have additional thyroid symptoms, however, treating the underlying disorder with medication or with radioactive iodine can shrink the lump.
How they feel Like a soft grape. They are often tender to the touch. These fluid-filled sacs are common in breasts and the genital area.
Why they pop up Breast cysts tend to wax and wane with your cycle if you have one that persists longer than a month, request an ultrasound or a fine-needle aspiration. Should you find a soft genital bump, its likely that a blocked oil duct has caused an epidermoid cyst, says Anita Shivadas, M.D., an internist at the Cleveland Clinic. If it is sensitive, apply warm, moist compresses and antibiotic cream. No pain? Leave it alone.
How they feel Like a squishy ball of tissue that moves easily. These fat deposits show up mostly on the legs, trunk and arms, explains Eileen S. Moore, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Why they pop up Lipomas tend to run in families. Unless they are painful or impinge on a nerve or blood vessel, your M.D. can keep an eye on them otherwise, they can be surgically removed.
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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.
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Signs Of Cancerous Masses
Cancerous masses in the breast are often very firm, like a rock. They have an irregular shape and size. They can be mobile but are often fixed, meaning they feel like they are attached to the skin or nearby tissue. You can’t really move them around by pushing on them. They’re also not likely to be painful, though they can be in some cases.
On exam, other changes may be present as well. These changes may include:
- Dimpling of the skin, with a texture like orange peel
- Nipple retraction, where the nipple turns inward instead of outward
- Enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit
One type of breast cancer, inflammatory breast cancer, does not usually cause a lump. Instead, you may see redness, swelling, and sometimes a rash on the skin of the breast.
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Self Breast Exam Tips
Its best to perform your monthly self breast exam a few days after your period ends and breast swelling and tenderness has reduced. A lump associated with breast cancer is often painless, hard and immobile, although this may not always be the case depending on its location in the breast and cellular makeup. If you find a lump, dont panic most breast lumps are not cancerous. Still, be sure to consult a medical professional if you notice a breast lump or any visible abnormalities in your breasts.
Moffitt Cancer Centers breast clinic provides breast cancer screening, diagnostics, treatment and supportive care, all in one location. To visit Moffitt with or without a referral, call or complete a new patient registration form online.
When To Get Help For A Breast Lump
If you find a breast lump or notice any other signs, always see your doctor as soon as possible, says Dr Rosen. Try not to panic, as the vast majority of lumps are benign and there may be other reasons for them. Also, lumps that hurt are usually not cancerous but hormonal. Your GP will examine you and refer you to a breast cancer unit or clinic for further tests.
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How To Perform A Self
Screening techniques help you and your doctor identify suspicious spots in your breast. A mammogram is a common screening option. A breast self-exam is another.
The self-exam was considered an important part of early breast cancer detection for many decades. Today, however, it may lead to too many unnecessary biopsies and surgical procedures.
Still, your doctor may recommend a self-exam to you. At the very least, the exam can help you familiarize yourself with your breasts appearance, shape, texture, and size. Knowing what your breasts should feel like could help you spot a potential problem more easily.
1) Pick a date. Hormones impact how your breasts feel, so its a good idea to wait a few days after your menstrual cycle ends. If you do not have a period, pick a date on the calendar you can easily remember, such as the first or fifteenth, and schedule your self-exam.
2) Take a look. Remove your top and bra. Stand in front of a mirror. Observe how your breasts look, inspecting them for changes in symmetry, shape, size, or color. Raise both arms, and repeat the visual inspection, noting the changes to your breasts shape and size when your arms are extended.
4) Squeeze your nipple. Gently squeeze on each nipple to see if you have any discharge.
6) Keep a journal. Subtle changes may be hard to detect, but a journal might help you see developments as they occur. Jot down any unusual spots and check them again in a few weeks. If you find any lumps, see your doctor.
Diagnosing And Treating Breast Cancer At Ctca
Finding a breast lump can be scary. That’s why, when confirming whether a lump is cancer, many women choose to seek out a breast cancer expert who can provide answers with the sense of urgency and commitment to accuracy they deserve.
Many patients come to CTCA for a breast cancer diagnosisand for second opinionsbecause of our expert, comprehensive cancer care. We only treat cancer at CTCA, and our Breast Cancer Centers recognize the value in dedicating a multidisciplinary team of experts to a specific cancer type, especially one as complex as breast cancer.
At the Breast Cancer Centers at each of our CTCA hospitals, located across the nation, our cancer experts are devoted to a single missiontreating breast cancer patients with compassion and precision. Each patients care team is led by a medical oncologist and coordinated by a registered oncology nurse, who helps track the various appointments, follow up on tests and answer questions that come up along the way. Your care team also may include a breast surgeon, radiation oncologist, radiologist, pathologist and a plastic and reconstructive surgeon with advanced training in helping patients restore function and appearance. Fertility preservation and genetic testing are also available for qualifying patients who need them.
No matter where you decide to go to assess your breast lump, while researching your options, look for a facility and a care team with the expertise you need and the credentials you trust.
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When To Worry About Breast Lumps
So, you feel a lump in your breast. Or, is it a lump? You’re unsure.
The one thing you are sure about is that you’re worried and that you’ve got a lot of questions.
If you’re concerned about something that feels like a lump in your breast, Dr. Jitesh Joshi, medical oncologist at Houston Methodist Cancer Center, has answers to your questions about breast lumps, as well as some advice.
What Changes Am I Looking For
Always consult a doctor if you notice any of the following changes:
- A new lump, bumpy area, swelling or thickening in one breast or armpit thats different to the same area on the other side
- A change in the size, outline or shape of your breast
- A change in the look or feel of your skin, such as puckering or dimpling
- Nipple discharge
- Bleeding from your nipple
- A rash or redness on or around the nipple area or a sore that doesnt heal
- Any change in the position of the nipple eg: becomes inverted, or is pointing differently
- Any new discomfort or pain in the breast
Checking your breasts for lumps monthly will help you to become aware of how they look and feel, says Dr Rosen. Its perfectly normal, for example, to have one breast thats slightly bigger than the other. Most women have slightly asymmetrical breasts. What youre looking for is anything thats not normal for you. This means any changes and symptoms that werent there before.
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What Happens After The Local Breast Cancer Treatment
Following local breast cancer treatment, the treatment team will determine the likelihood that the cancer will recur outside the breast. This team usually includes a medical oncologist, a specialist trained in using medicines to treat breast cancer. The medical oncologist, who works with the surgeon, may advise the use of the drugs like tamoxifen or anastrozole or possibly chemotherapy. These treatments are used in addition to, but not in place of, local breast cancer treatment with surgery and/or radiation therapy.
After treatment for breast cancer, it is especially important for a woman to continue to do a monthly breast examination. Regular examinations will help you detect local recurrences. Early signs of recurrence can be noted in the incision area itself, the opposite breast, the axilla , or supraclavicular region .
Maintaining your follow-up schedule with your physician is also necessary so problems can be detected when treatment can be most effective. Your health care provider will also be able to answer any questions you may have about breast self-examination after the following procedures.
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Keep An Eye Out For Breast Cancer Signs And Symptoms:
- Changes to the size, outline or shape
- Changes to the look or feel of your skin such as bumps, dimples, orange peel, skin sores or growing veins
- A new lump, thickening or bumpy area in the breast or armpit
- Unexpected fluid or bleeding
- Crusty or sunken nipples or a change in nipple position
- Discomfort or pain in one breast
- An unexplained rash or feelings of heat
- Dont forget that men get breast cancer too!
If you notice anything unusual or have any concerns about any of the symptoms above, we would advise you to see your doctor and seek medical advice.
If youre worried about breast cancer call our free Support Line on .
Don’t forget, men get breast cancer too! Click here for more information.
Metastatic Breast Cancer Symptoms
Metastatic breast cancer symptoms depend on the part of the body to which the cancer has spread and its stage. Sometimes, metastatic disease may not cause any symptoms.
- If the breast or chest wall is affected, symptoms may include pain, nipple discharge, or a lump or thickening in the breast or underarm.
- If the bones are affected, symptoms may include pain, fractures, constipation or decreased alertness due to high calcium levels.
- If tumors form in the lungs, symptoms may include shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, coughing, chest wall pain or extreme fatigue.
- If the liver is affected, symptoms may include nausea, extreme fatigue, increased abdominal girth, swelling of the feet and hands due to fluid collection and yellowing or itchy skin.
- If breast cancer spreads to the brain or spinal cord and forms tumors, symptoms may include pain, confusion, memory loss, headache, blurred or double vision, difficulty with speech, difficulty with movement or seizures.
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Possible Cause: Benign Breast Lumps
There can be several reasons for breast lumps that arent related to cancer.
A cyst is a pocket of fluid that can develop in the breasts. While these are usually too small to feel, sometimes they grow large enough to feel like a lump. Cysts dont put a patient at an increased risk for cancer and dont typically require any treatment.
The most common benign tumor that feels hard but is mobile when you press on it is a fibroadenoma. In this case, your doctor may want to remove it, but having these don’t lead to cancer for most patients .
Breast Surgeon Dr Susanna Nazarian Discusses Maintaining Breast Health And Why Its Important To Keep Up With Regular Screening Mammograms
It can be scary to feel an abnormal lump in your breast. The good news is, many breast lumps are benignor non-cancerousespecially for those who have recently had a screening mammogram.
Still, its important to continue monitoring your breast health and keeping your healthcare providers up to date with any changes or developments. Heres what to know about breast lumps and what to do when you feel one.
Types of Breast Lumps
When it comes to masses in the breast, some may be cancerous, although many are benign. The two most common types of benign lumps are cysts and fibroadenomas. Cysts can occur throughout the body, says breast surgeon Dr. Susanna Nazarian. They are fluid-filled sacs that can be uncomfortable or painful in some instances, but are generally asymptomatic. Cysts are benign and dont need to be removed or treated unless youre experiencing discomfortin which case, they can be drained with a needle or removed completely via surgery.
What to Do if You Feel a Lump
If you feel a lump in your breast, the first thing you should do is reach out to your primary care provider or OB/GYN. Though many masses are benign, your provider will likely recommend breast imaging, including a mammogram or ultrasound, and a biopsy, if necessary.
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Signs Of Cancerous Breast Tumors
Though most breast lumps are benign, some do turn out to be cancerous. If a tumor is cancerous, it will continue to grow and invade normal nearby tissue. If it isnt treated, it can spread to other areas in the body.
Most cancerous breast tumors first appear as single, hard lumps or thickening under the skin. Other signs to watch for include a change in nipple appearance, nipple secretions, nipple tenderness, and a dimpling or puckering of the skin.
About half of cancerous breast lumps appear in the upper, outer quadrant of the breast, extending into the armpit. About 18 percent of breast cancer tumors show up in the nipple area. Around 11 percent are found in the lower quadrant, and 6 percent are located in the lower, inner quadrant.