A Lump In Your Breast Or Underarm
A lump in your breast or underarm is often the first noticeable sign of breast cancer. There could also be swelling in addition to, or instead of, the lump.
What does a breast lump feel like?
Most often, breast lumps feel hard, like a knot. But a lump may also feel like part of your breast has become thicker than the tissue around it.
Do breast cancer lumps or benign breast lumps hurt?
Some breast lumps can be painful, yes although most dont cause pain. If a lump does cause pain, it doesnt necessarily mean its cancerous. Cysts and fibrocystic breasts can sometimes cause pain without being cancerous.
If youve been having breast pain and youre not sure whats causing it, dont wait too long to have it checked.
Are there other causes of breast lumps besides cancer?
Yes. Not all breast lumps are cancerous. Breast cysts and fibroadenomas are two common types of benign breast lumps that women experience.
Other conditions such as fat necrosis or infection can present themselves as lumps, too. This is why its important to talk with a doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your breast health.
Questions or concerns about your breast health? Were here for you.
Why You Shouldn’t Think Twice About Getting A Lump Checked
A woman’s risk for breast cancer is highest after the age of 50, but even young women can develop breast cancer. Since any lump could potentially be cancerous, it’s critical that you have any lump you may have felt evaluated by a doctor no matter your age.
“While many lumps will end up being benign breast lump disease, many others won’t be and we don’t want to miss out on diagnosing breast cancer,” says Dr. Joshi. “Through mammograms and other imaging modalities, breast cancer is very easy to catch and diagnose, and when caught early breast cancer is very, very treatable.”
In addition, Dr. Joshi says you shouldn’t avoid having a lump checked just because you’re worried about having a painful biopsy.
“Mammograms and breast ultrasounds are very powerful tools that can help us diagnose even the smallest breast cancers with very high specificity,” explains Dr. Joshi. “We don’t need to biopsy the lump in every case.”
Lastly, if you’re nervous about going to your doctor’s office to have a lump checked during COVID-19, don’t be. Houston Methodist doctor offices and imaging centers have enhanced safety measures in place and are taking extra precautions to keep you safe during your appointment or mammogram, including:
How Is Breast Cancer Treated
If the tests find cancer, you and your doctor will develop a treatment plan to eradicate the breast cancer, to reduce the chance of cancer returning in the breast, as well as to reduce the chance of the cancer traveling to a location outside of the breast. Treatment generally follows within a few weeks after the diagnosis.
The type of treatment recommended will depend on the size and location of the tumor in the breast, the results of lab tests done on the cancer cells, and the stage, or extent, of the disease. Your doctor will usually consider your age and general health as well as your feelings about the treatment options.
Breast cancer treatments are local or systemic. Local treatments are used to remove, destroy, or control the cancer cells in a specific area, such as the breast. Surgery and radiation treatment are local treatments. Systemic treatments are used to destroy or control cancer cells all over the body. Chemotherapy and hormone therapy are systemic treatments. A patient may have just one form of treatment or a combination, depending on her individual diagnosis.
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Causes And Risk Factors
According to the American Cancer Society, most breast cancers are ductal cancers, beginning in the cells that carry milk to the nipple. Lobular cancers, starting in the milk-producing glands, are less common.
BreastCancer.org state some 5 to 10 percent of all female breast cancer cases in the U.S. are hereditary. This means that an abnormal gene is passed on from parent to child, which is often the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation
Having abnormal copies of these genes raises the risk of breast, ovarian, and other cancers.
Around 85 percent of breast cancer cases occur in women with no family history of the condition. Age, gender, and ethnicity are the biggest risk factors. For women, the risk increases with age, and white women are at a higher risk than women of other races.
The National Cancer Institute reports that the odds of developing breast cancer increase with age. They state that the 10-year risk of developing breast cancer is 1 in 227 for a 30-year-old woman and 1 in 26 for a 70-year-old woman.
The most significant increase in these odds occurs during the period between 30 and 50 years, rising from 1 in 227 to 1 in 42.
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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Signs And Symptoms Of Cancer
Signs and symptoms are ways the body lets you know that you have an injury, illness, or disease.
- A sign, such as fever or bleeding, can be seen or measured by someone else.
- A symptom, such as pain or fatigue, is felt or noticed by the person who has it.
Signs and symptoms of cancer depend on where the cancer is, how big it is, and how much it affects nearby organs or tissues. If a cancer has spread , signs or symptoms may appear in different parts of the body.
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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What Do Male Breast Cancer Lumps Feel Like
A lump-like swelling in the breast that may or may not be painful is the most common symptom of male breast cancer. A lump or thickening may be near the breast or in the underarm area. One side of the chest may appear bulkier than the other. Although most men diagnosed with breast cancer are older than 65 years, breast cancer can appear in younger men. Other common signs and symptoms may include:
- A change in the size or shape of the nipples
- Men with breast cancer usually have lumps that can be felt
- A dimple or puckering in the skin around the nipple
- A nipple turned inward
- Fluid discharge from the nipple, especially if it’s bloody
- Scaly, red, or swollen skin on the breast, nipple, or areola
- Dimples in the breast that looks like the skin of an orange, called peau dorange
- Sometimes breast cancer can spread and cause swelling under the arm or around the collar bone even before the original tumor in the breast becomes big enough to be felt
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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What Else Causes Bone Pain
When were talking about what bone cancer pain feels like, its also good to note that other things can bring about bone pain in your body. 6,7
Osteoporosis: A common bone disease that leads to weak and brittle bones
Bone bruise: When the bone hits a hard surface
Arthritis: Inflammation of the joints that can lead to pain, stiffness, and swelling
Myalgia: Muscle pain that can be both short or long-term and lead to joint pain
Osteomalacia: This refers to bone softening that often happens because of a vitamin-D deficiency and can cause a dull, aching pain
Injury: Injury that occurs due to trauma or force
Pagets disease: A chronic bone disease that affects older adults and leads to excess bone formation
Fracture: Fracture can occur after accidents, injuries, overuse in athletics, or because of weakened bones it can also cause swelling and bruises
Secondary bone cancer: Cancer that started somewhere else and then spread to the bones
Leukemia: Cancer that starts in the bone marrow and leads to overcrowding of cancer cells, which can be a source of joint and bone pain
Osteomyelitis: An infection of the bones that causes bone pain, tenderness, swelling, warmth, and redness
Overuse: From exercise, lifting, or excessive use
Osteonecrosis: This happens when a bones blood supply is compromised, leading to bone collapse due to the death of bone and bone marrow cells
Growing pains: Such as those that happen in children and teenagers
What Are The Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
Breast pain can be a symptom of cancer. If you have any symptoms that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away.
Different people have different symptoms of breast cancer. Some people do not have any signs or symptoms at all.
Some warning signs of breast cancer are
- New lump in the breast or underarm .
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast.
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
- Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area.
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
- Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.
- Pain in any area of the breast.
Keep in mind that these symptoms can happen with other conditions that are not cancer.
If you have any signs or symptoms that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away.
Read Also: What Happens When Breast Cancer Metastasis
Symptoms Of Angiosarcoma Of The Breast
Another rare form of breast cancer, angiosarcoma forms inside the lymph and blood vessels. Only a biopsy may definitively diagnose this type of cancer. Angiosarcoma can cause changes to the skin of your breast, such as the development of purple-colored nodules that resemble a bruise. These nodules, if bumped or scratched, may bleed. Over time, these discolored areas may expand, making your skin appear swollen in that area. You may or may not have breast lumps with angiosarcoma. If you also have lymphedema, which is swelling caused by a buildup of lymphatic fluid, angiosarcoma may occur in the affected arm. Cancer treatment sometimes damages the lymph vessels, which may lead to lymphedema.
Common Types Of Breast Cancer
Lobular carcinoma in situ
Lobular carcinoma in situ refers to an area of abnormal cells confined to the milk-producing glands of the breast in females.
Because these cells do not spread to surrounding tissues, experts do not consider lobular carcinoma in situ to be a true cancer. However, it can increase the chances of developing other types of breast cancer.
Invasive lobular carcinoma
This develops in the breasts lobules glands that can produce milk and invades nearby breast tissue.
In the early stages, invasive lobular carcinoma may not cause symptoms. Or, a person may experience:
- thickening or hardening of breast tissue, rather than a distinct lump
- an area of fullness or swelling in the breast
- a change in the texture of the breasts skin
- the nipple turning inward
Ductal carcinoma in situ
Ductal carcinoma in situ refers to an area of abnormal cells that are confined to one of the breasts milk ducts.
When a person receives this diagnosis, it means that the cells have not invaded surrounding breast tissue. However, having ductal carcinoma in situ can increase the risk of developing an invasive breast cancer later on.
This condition generally does not cause symptoms. Rarely, a person may notice a lump in the breast or some discharge from the nipple.
Invasive ductal carcinoma
People with this type of cancer may also experience:
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Palpation Of Benign Breast Masses
In contrast to breast cancer tumors, benign lumps are often squishy or feel like a soft rubber ball with well-defined margins. They’re often easy to move around and may be tender.
Breast infections can cause redness and swelling. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between mastitis and inflammatory breast cancer, but mastitis often causes symptoms of fever, chills, and body aches, and those symptoms aren’t associated with cancer.
When To See Your Doctor
It’s important to talk to your physician if you have breast pain from any cause. Even if it’s not due to cancer, many women find that breast pain decreases their quality of life. In one study,15% of the women experienced breast pain at some time in their life that interfered with work and family activities. So, make sure to talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any suspicious discomfort.
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What Does Cancer Pain Actually Feel Like
If youre experiencing cancer-related pain, make sure to check with your doctor about treatment options.
If you are suffering from cancer, you may have to deal with a lot of pain. While not everyone with cancer experiences pain, a significant number do. The pain that you feel will be different based on the type of cancer that you have. Sometimes you might have several different forms of pain, making it difficult to explain. Additionally, with cancer pain comes not only the physical discomfort but also emotional pain, as well.
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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Can You Have Breast Cancer With No Visible Symptoms
Yes. Many women who are diagnosed with breast cancer say they didnt notice any symptoms. This is why regular breast cancer screenings are so strongly advised.
We recommend that women consider starting annual screening mammograms at age 40. But depending on your risk factors, overall health and personal preferences, you and your doctor can work together to decide whether screenings should begin earlier, later or at different intervals.
When To See A Doctor
If any of the above signs or symptoms occur, people should see a doctor.
Women should also ask their doctor about regular screening, as some changes may not be detectable in the early stages.
Guidelines from the American College of Physicians recommend the following:
- Women should start speaking to their doctor about breast cancer screening from the age of 40 years.
- Women with an average risk should have a mammogram every 2 years from the age of 5074 years.
Individual risk factors may mean that some women need additional screening. A doctor will advise on risk factors, how often to screen, and when to start.
It is worth noting that different authorities, such as the American Cancer Society, have different guidelines. Each person should speak to their doctor about the best option for them.
The most common tools for analyzing breast lumps are clinical breast exams, mammography, breast MRIs, and biopsies.
Many breast lumps are harmless or result from conditions other than cancer, but only a doctor can determine this.
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Stomach Upset Loss Of Appetite And Weight Loss
It can be more difficult to eat a healthy diet as these symptoms occur, setting up a vicious cycle. As women avoid certain foods because of stomach upset, the digestive system may lack the fiber and nutrients it needs to function optimally.
Over time, women may lose their appetite and have difficulty taking in the calories they need. Not eating regularly may cause significant weight loss and nutritional imbalances.
Does Breast Cancer Affect Women Of All Races Equally
All women, especially as they age, are at some risk for developing breast cancer. The risks for breast cancer in general arent evenly spread among ethnic groups, and the risk varies among ethnic groups for different types of breast cancer. Breast cancer mortality rates in the United States have declined by 40% since 1989, but disparities persist and are widening between non-Hispanic Black women and non-Hispanic white women.
Statistics show that, overall, non-Hispanic white women have a slightly higher chance of developing breast cancer than women of any other race/ethnicity. The incidence rate for non-Hispanic Black women is almost as high.
Non-Hispanic Black women in the U.S. have a 39% higher risk of dying from breast cancer at any age. They are twice as likely to get triple-negative breast cancer as white women. This type of cancer is especially aggressive and difficult to treat. However, it’s really among women with hormone positive disease where Black women have worse clinical outcomes despite comparable systemic therapy. Non-Hispanic Black women are less likely to receive standard treatments. Additionally, there is increasing data on discontinuation of adjuvant hormonal therapy by those who are poor and underinsured.
In women under the age of 45, breast cancer is found more often in non-Hispanic Black women than in non-Hispanic white women.