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.
How To Know If You Have Breast Cancer
This article was medically reviewed by . Dr. Litza is a board certified Family Medicine Physician in Wisconsin. She is a practicing Physician and taught as a Clinical Professor for 13 years, after receiving her MD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health in 1998.There are 24 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 100% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 576,335 times.
Appearance With A Biopsy
When a breast biopsy is done, tissue is removed and sent to a pathologist. They will look at it under a microscope. Usually, special genetic studies are done as well.
The pathologist looks at the size and shape of the cells, as well as their arrangement if the tissue sample was taken by using a core needle biopsy. That’s also true for an open biopsy done by making a cut through the skin to remove the sample.
You May Like: What Organs Are Affected By Breast Cancer
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.
Links with this icon indicate that you are leaving the CDC website.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cannot attest to the accuracy of a non-federal website.
- Linking to a non-federal website does not constitute an endorsement by CDC or any of its employees of the sponsors or the information and products presented on the website.
- CDC is not responsible for Section 508 compliance on other federal or private website.
Be Aware Of Your Breasts To Detect Breast Cancer Symptoms Early
Studies show that regular breast self-exams are not the best way to detect breast cancer early.
What does work? Being aware of how your breasts look and feel and seeing a doctor as soon as you notice changes or abnormalities.
The vast majority of breast cancers are found during daily activities like showering, applying deodorant or even scratching, says Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director of the Cancer Prevention Center.
Bevers advises women to see a doctor if they have one or more symptoms of breast cancer, no matter how mild they may seem.
You dont need to wait for any particular size or severity of symptoms to get checked out, she says. “The earlier that breast cancer is detected, the better our chances of treating it successfully.”
And you shouldnt ignore symptoms just because you breasts don’t hurt. Pain is rarely a symptom of breast cancer, she says.
The vast majority of breast cancers are found during daily activitieslike showering, applying deodorant or even scratching.
Therese Bevers, M.D.
Read Also: Breast Cancer Triple Negative Prognosis
Is Surgery Necessary For Breast Lumps
- In general, surgery is not necessary to treat breast pain unless a mass is found. Surgery is performed to remove a lump.
- If an abscess is present, it must be drained. After injection of local anesthetic, the doctor may drain an abscess near the surface of the skin either by aspiration with a needle and syringe or by using a small incision. This can be done in the doctor’s office or Emergency Department.
- If the abscess is deep in the breast, it may require surgical drainage in the operating room. This is usually done under general anesthesia in order to minimize pain and completely drain the abscess. If your infection worsens in spite of oral antibiotics or if you have a deep abscess requiring surgical treatment, you may be admitted to the hospital for IV antibiotics.
When You Might Have It
You might have a breast ultrasound:
- as a first test if you have a lump in the breast
- if you have a lump in your breast that hasn’t shown up on a breast x-ray
- to see if a breast lump is solid or if contains fluid
You might have this test alongside other tests, such as a breast examination and breast x-ray in a one stop clinic. You might also have a breast biopsy. This is called a triple assessment.
You may also have an ultrasound scan when you have a biopsy of the breast. This helps the doctor find the right place to take the biopsy.
Don’t Miss: Stage Three Breast Cancer Prognosis
When To Contact A Doctor
A person should contact a doctor if they experience any symptoms that may indicate breast cancer. Most lumps are not cancerous, but a doctor can help rule this out.
Screening can help detect changes before a lump becomes noticeable. At this stage, breast cancer is easier to treat.
Current guidelines from the American College of Physicians recommend that females speak with a doctor about breast cancer screening from the age of 40 years. They also recommend that females at average risk of breast cancer have a mammogram every 2 years from 5074 years of age.
People with a higher risk, such as those with a family history of breast cancer, may need more regular screening.
It is worth noting that different authorities, such as the
How Are Breast Lumps Treated
Treatment for a breast lump depends on the cause. Some lumps dont require any treatment.
Breast lump treatment includes:
- Antibiotics for a breast infection.
- Fluid drainage for a breast cyst .
- Excisional biopsy to remove a mass .
- Cancer treatment if the lump is biopsy-proven breast cancer. Cancer therapies may include lumpectomy, mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
You May Like: Stage 2 Breast Cancer Metastasis
What Are The Causes Of Breast Lumps
Causes of breast lumps include:
- Changes in the breast tissue : Tiny, fluid-filled sacs and fibrous tissue feel like lumps.
- Breast cysts: Fluid-filled sacs form when fluid becomes trapped in the milk ducts. Cysts are common in premenopausal women.
- Fibroadenomas: This benign lump is the most common breast tumor in young women . Fibroadenomas are most common during a persons reproductive years.
- Breast infection: An infection in the breast tissue can cause a lump.
- Breast cancer: A tumor growing in the breast tissue causes a lump.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer Symptoms
Unlike other breast cancers, inflammatory breast cancer rarely causes breast lumps and may not appear on a mammogram. Inflammatory breast cancer symptoms include:
- Red, swollen, itchy breast that is tender to the touch
- The surface of the breast may take on a ridged or pitted appearance, similar to an orange peel
- Heaviness, burning, or aching in one breast
- One breast is visibly larger than the other
- Inverted nipple
- No mass is felt with a breast self-exam
- Swollen lymph nodes under the arm and/or above the collarbone
- Symptoms unresolved after a course of antibiotics
Unlike other breast cancers, inflammatory breast cancer usually does not cause a distinct lump in the breast. Therefore, a breast self-exam, clinical breast exam, or even a mammogram may not detect inflammatory breast cancer. Ultrasounds may also miss inflammatory breast cancer. However, the changes to the surface of the breast caused by inflammatory breast cancer can be seen with the naked eye.
Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer can develop rapidly, and the disease can progress quickly. Any sudden changes in the texture or appearance of the breast should be reported to your doctor immediately.
For women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, redness, swelling, itchiness and soreness are often signs of a breast infection such as mastitis, which is treatable with antibiotics. If you are not pregnant or nursing and you develop these symptoms, your doctor should test for inflammatory breast cancer.
Don’t Miss: Stage 3 Cancer
How To Tell If A Lump Might Be Cancerous
How they feel Hard, and they don’t 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, it’s 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.
Which Breast Lumps Should Women Worry About
Breast lumps are frightening, but fairly common. And while you already know that a lump could potentially signal breast cancer, you’ve probably also heard that most lumps are noncancerous, or benign.
So how can you tell if a breast lump needs to be checked out by a doctor?
“All breast lumps need to be evaluated by a physician, regardless of your age or where in your breast you feel the lump,” says Dr. Joshi. “More often than not, breast lumps are harmless. But, any lump could potentially be breast cancer, and it’s impossible for a woman to determine whether her lump is cancerous or benign just by feeling it.”
That being said, Dr. Joshi says that there are some features that make a lump particularly concerning, including:
- Changes in the skin over the lump
- Nipple changes, including enlargement or bloody discharge
- Changes in the size of the lump
“Additionally, having a family history of breast cancer makes it more likely that a lump could be cancerous,” warns Dr. Joshi.
Don’t Miss: Stage 3c Breast Cancer
How Do You Check For Breast Cancer Lumps
It is important for women to understand the way their breasts feel and look in case there are any changes, which should be reported to their provider immediately. Women who are at risk of breast cancer should get annual mammograms and breast MRIs starting at the age of 30. Talk to your doctor to see if you are at risk for breast cancer. If a lump is found, imaging tests will be performed to determine whether it is breast cancer or something else. Imaging tests that are used to diagnose cancer include:
- Molecular breast imaging
A Lump In Your Breast
A lump or mass in the breast is the most common symptom of breast cancer. Lumps are often hard and painless, although some are painful. However, not all lumps are cancer. Benign breast conditions that can also cause lumps.
Still, its important to have your doctor check out any new lump or mass right away. If it does turn out to be cancer, the sooner its diagnosed the better.
Also Check: What Does Stage 3 Cancer Mean
Invasive Breast Cancer Symptoms
Most breast cancers start in the ducts, or the tubes that carry milk to the nipple, or in the lobules, the little clusters of sacs where breast milk is made. Invasive breast cancer refers to breast cancer that spreads from the original site to other areas of the breast, the lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body. In these cancers that form in the ducts or lobules, invasive ductal carcinoma or invasive lobular carcinoma , the cancer spreads from the ducts or lobules to other tissue. Depending on the stage, you may notice symptoms.
Invasive breast cancer symptoms may include:
- A lump or mass in the breast
- Swelling of all or part of the breast, even if no lump is felt
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- A lump or swelling in the underarm lymph nodes
What Are The Signs That A Lump On Your Breast Is Cancerous
Woman being accessed by a doctor
Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2020 around 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed. Throughout October, charities and the medical profession celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Its a time to highlight the progress made in breast cancer research and awareness surrounding the disease. However, it can be difficult to know what youre looking for when youre checking your breasts. So, how can you tell if a breast lump is cancerous?
Throughout your menstrual cycle, its really normal for your breasts to change. They may appear softer and smaller, or firmer and perkier depending on your hormone levels. Youll notice theyre different on different days. And knowing your own breasts is a great way to spot changes. However, not all lumps are cancerous. This doesnt take away from the fact that other changes can be uncomfortable and painful.
If you notice a lump it may be a breast cyst which is a fluid-filled sac in the tissue of your breast. They often feel soft. Similarly, fibroadenomas are lumps in the tissue and feel firmer. Duct ectasia is when the milk ducts become swollen or clogged and Mastitis is an infection that causes pain and swelling. These are just a few of the reasons you may notice pain or lumps in your breasts. You should speak to your doctor if youre worried and continue checking your breasts.
Read Also: What Does Triple Positive Breast Cancer Mean
How Can I Maintain Good Breast Health
Pay attention to your body. If you notice changes or something feels off, talk to your healthcare provider. Ways to keep your breasts healthy:
- Be aware of breast changes and report any concerns to your healthcare provider.
- Talk to your healthcare provider about screening options.
- Know your breast density and how it may affect your mammogram.
- Report changes in your family history to your provider every year.
What To Look And Feel For
Changes that could be due to a breast cancer are:
- If one of your breasts has gotten larger or lower or changes shape
- If any veins stand out more than usual for you
- Puckering, dimpling or redness of the skin
- Changes in the nipple such as redness, crusting, or blood stained discharge
- Changes in the shape of the nipple, particularly if it turns in or sinks into the breast or direction
- Bumpy areas that seem different from other breast tissue
- A swelling or lump in your armpit or along your collarbone
It is important that you check your breasts each month to look and feel for these changes. Click here to visit our Finding Breast Cancer Early page.
If you notice one or more of these signs, dont panic as it does not necessarily mean that you have breast cancer. These symptoms can be caused by other medical conditions. However, all of the above symptoms should be looked at by your GP. It most likely means you have a benign condition that can be easily be diagnosed by your GP. Your GP will reassure you but may need to refer you for further assessment and investigations as appropriate.
Seeing your doctor early also means you give yourself the best chance of successful treatment and cure if it is cancer.
Recommended Reading: What Is Stage 3 Breast Cancer