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.”
If You Experience Pain Along With Any Of The Following Symptoms You Should Contact Your Physician
- Bloody or clear discharge from your nipple
- A new lump with the onset of the pain lump does not go away after your menstrual period
- Persistent, unexplained breast pain
- Signs of a breast infection, including local redness, pus, or fever
- Redness of the skin of the breast that may appear as a rash, with dilated pores, and possibly skin thickening.
Where Is Breast Cancer Lumps Usually Found
Breast cancer lumps can develop in any part of the breast or nipple, but they are most common in the upper outer quadrant of the breasts. Lumps on side of the breast are also reported.
Lumps can be found in any breast. Some women may find a lump in the left breast and others may have a lump in the right breast.
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When To Worry About A Breast Lump
The best way to truly solve any anxiety or worry you have about a breast lump is to have the lump examined by a medical professional. They will be able to determine the cause. Remember that the majority of breast lumps end up being benign, but it is still very important to have a professional give you a definitive answer.
For more information about breast cancer research and treatment, visit Dana-Farbers Susan F. Smith Center for Womens Cancers website.
Breast Or Nipple Pain
Breast cancer can cause changes in skin cells that lead to feelings of pain, tenderness, and discomfort in the breast. Although breast cancer is often painless, it is important not to ignore any signs or symptoms that could be due to breast cancer.
Some people may describe the pain as a burning sensation.
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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.
What Does A Breast Lump Feel Like
In general, cancerous breast lumps tend to be more irregular in shape. They may also feel firm or solid, and might be fixed to the tissue in the breast. They are also often painless. However, in a small percentage of women, a painful breast lump turns out to be cancer.
Breast cancer lumps can vary in size. Typically, a lump has to be about one centimeter before a person can feel it however, it depends on where the lump arises in the breast, how big the breast is, and how deep the lesion is.
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How To Check Your Breasts For Lumps
Weve covered the seven more unusual symptoms of breast cancer to look out for, but the most common symptom is a lump in the breast.
It is crucial you keep checking your breasts for lumps regularly.
Most breast lumps dont turn out to be cancer, but if you find a lump you should see a doctor immediately.
Make checking your breasts part of your regular routine, you can do it while youre in the shower, or while youre getting dressed.
You should feel all around your breasts, from your underboob all the way up to your armpits and collarbone.
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What If The Lump Feels Like A Ridge What If I Have A Pea
You should have a familiarity with your body and what the breast normally feels like, including its normal shape, appearance, and texture. Generally, women are advised to analyze their breasts in the shower with soapy fingers to get a nice feel of the normal tissues. If you do that and have some familiarity with your normal breast tissue, and then find something different, you should reach out to your medical team.
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Nipple Retraction Or Inversion
Breast cancer can cause cell changes behind the nipple. These changes can result in the nipple inverting and reversing inward into the breast, or it may look different in terms of its size.
The appearance of the nipples can often alter during ovulation or other parts of the menstrual cycle, but people should see a doctor about any new nipple changes.
How Is A Breast Infection Diagnosed
In a breastfeeding woman, a doctor can typically diagnose mastitis based on a physical examination and a review of your symptoms. Your doctor will also want to rule out whether the infection has formed an abscess that needs to be drained, which can be done during the physical exam.
If the infection keeps coming back, breast milk may be sent to a laboratory to determine what bacteria might be present.
Other tests may be necessary to determine the cause if you have a breast infection and youre not breastfeeding. Testing may include a mammogram or even a biopsy of breast tissue to rule out breast cancer. A mammogram is an imaging test that uses low-energy X-rays to examine the breast. A breast biopsy involves the removal of a small tissue sample from the breast for lab testing to determine if any cancerous cell changes are present.
If you dont already have a primary care doctor, you can browse doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.
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Statistics On Breast Cancer & Pain
A breast tumora hard clump of breast cancer cellsusually doesn’t usually cause breast pain unless it reaches the size of two centimeters in diameter or greater. But a tumor can be larger than two centimeters and still not cause pain.
In fact,only about 5% to 15% of women newly diagnosed with breast cancer complain of breast pain. Only 7% of those diagnosed with breast cancer seek a doctor because of breast pain, excluding other symptoms.
Change In Size Shape Or Feel Of Your Breast
A cancer might cause your breast to look bigger or have a different shape than usual, it might feel different.
Many healthy women find that their breasts feel lumpy and tender just before their period.
It can help to be breast aware. This means getting to know the size, shape and feel of your breasts.
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Other Causes Of Pain And Tenderness
We often associate pain with something wrong, so when people feel tenderness or pain in their breast, they often think of breast cancer. But breast pain is rarely the first noticeable symptom of breast cancer. Several other factors can cause the pain.
Clinically known as mastalgia, breast pain can also be caused by the following:
- the fluctuation of hormones caused by menstruation
Myth : Women With Lumpy Breast Tissue Have Dense Breasts
False. Lumpy breast tissue has nothing to do with breast density, Dr. Pederson says. Your breasts can feel lumpy but not appear dense on a mammogram.
Nearly one in two women have dense breast tissue, indicated by the amount of milk glands and ducts and supportive tissue, which appear solid white on a mammogram. Because cancer can appear the same way, women with dense breasts may choose to have 3D mammography for better cancer detection and fewer false positives. Women at high risk may qualify for MRI screening.
Causes Of Painful Breast Lumps
Hormonal activities are very high in women especially during their menstrual cycle, when pregnant and while undergoing perimenopause period. During these periods the level of estrogen may go up thereby causing overproduction of oil in the body some of which may lead to a lump development on the skin including the breast. The lump formed may sometimes be painful and some women even find it hard to bend while carrying out their house chores. These types of lumps should never cause anxiety since it will disappear without any treatment after the period you are undergoing is over.
Women are supposed to maintain a high standard of hygiene especially in the areas around the breast. This is because this area is always covered and therefore it is always warm and moist more so for breastfeeding women. All these conditions are very encouraging when it comes to yeast infection which may appear as a rash or a painful lump in breast. Therefore, women whose hygiene is poor are likely to develop a breast lump easily even from the clogging of the pore on the area.
Myth : Breast Cancer Doesnt Cause Pain
Thats not entirely true. Fast-growing breast cancers can be painful. Breast pain in one particular spot, especially in older women, is a warning sign.
Most women experience general breast pain or soreness that comes and goes, Dr. Pederson says. Thats not a sign of cancer, but usually due to hormone fluctuations or too much caffeine.
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Previous Breast Cancer Or Lump
You have a higher risk of developing breast cancer again if you’ve previously had breast cancer. The risk is also higher if you’ve had early non-invasive cancer cell changes in breast ducts. This could have been either in your other breast or in the same breast.
A benign breast lump doesn’t mean you have breast cancer.
Certain changes in your breast tissue, such as cells growing abnormally in ducts , or abnormal cells inside your breast lobules , can make getting breast cancer more likely.
How Can I Care For My Breast Infections At Home
While receiving treatment for infection, you can also take steps to relieve uncomfortable symptoms at home:
- Warm compresses may ease pain and help lactation. Try applying a warm, wet washcloth to the infected area for 15 minutes, four times a day.
- Empty the breast well.
- Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen , may help relieve pain.
- Use varied positions to breastfeed.
- If possible, avoid prolonged engorgement before breastfeeding. Feed or pump when its time.
Meeting with a lactation consultant to alter your breastfeeding technique or position may help prevent the infection from returning.
If youre breastfeeding, use these tips to reduce your chances of developing a breast infection:
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When To Worry About Breast Lumps
Whats the difference between a hard lump and a movable lump in your breast? Learn what the size and mobility of breast lumps may mean for your health and breast cancer risk.
Youre in the shower, conducting your monthly breast self-exam. Suddenly your hand freezes. Youve found a lump. Now what?
First, don’t panic 80 to 85 percent of breast lumps are benign, meaning they are noncancerous, especially in women younger than 40. Not only that, but if youre of an age to be having regular mammograms, and if those mammograms have been negative, the odds are even better that your palpable lump is not cancer.
I tell women that years before they ever experience a palpable lump we will have seen something on their screening mammogram, says Steven R. Goldstein, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.
Even armed with that knowledge, its hard not to worry if you find a lump. At the very least, youll have questions. How do you differentiate between a lump that is breast cancer and one that is benign? What causes benign breast lumps? And do they go away on their own?
Skin And General Appearance
Paying attention to the appearance of your breasts or chest is an important part of knowing what is normal. Noticing the shape and size, as well as what the skin looks like, will help you detect whether anything is changing.
Itâs normal for breasts to not be exactly symmetrical, but if one breast suddenly becomes much larger, this could be a sign that something is wrong and it should be checked out. If it looks like the skin or nipple is being pulled from the insideâthis is called retractionâand it should be evaluated by a healthcare provider. If the skin on the breast has sores, becomes red, thick and firm, or looks like the dimpled skin of an orange, a healthcare provider should evaluate it .
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Breast Pain And Tenderness
Breast pain and tenderness is very common and is usually not cancer. For people experiencing only breast pain, it is cancer in just 1 to 3 out of 100 people .
Cyclical breast pain comes and goes in relation to your period and is the most common kind of breast pain, affecting about 7 out of 10 people . It is a pattern of pain that typically occurs during the luteal phase with each menstrual cycle. Cyclical breast tenderness is a sign that ovulation has occurred and is typically experienced in the 5-10 days leading up to the start of a period, but goes away after the period starts . It is most often described as aching, heavy, and tender, but can also feel sharp or shooting .
Pain that is not cyclical could be due to something in the breast or ribcage like inflammation, infection, or injury, or could be a sign of cancer . Non-cyclical breast pain that is persistently in one spotâespecially if there is also a breast lumpâshould be evaluated by a healthcare provider .
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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Treatments To Reduce Your Risk
If you have a greatly increased risk of developing breast cancer, for example, a BRCA gene carrier, treatment might be available to reduce your risk. This applies to a very small minority of women.
Your level of risk is determined by factors such as your age, your family’s medical history, and the results of genetic tests.
You will usually be referred to a specialist genetics service if it’s thought you have a significantly increased risk of breast cancer. Healthcare professionals working at these services might discuss treatment options with you.
The 2 main treatments are surgery to remove the breasts or medication. These are described in more detail below.
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