Why Is Routine Breast Self
Breast self-examination is a formal, structured technique by which women feel for breast lumps and or changes on a regular basis, usually every month.
This is no longer recommended, because:
- there is no evidence that doing breast self-examination will reduce your chances of dying from breast cancer, and
- it can lead to anxiety and unnecessary breast biopsies, particularly among younger women.
Instead, it’s better to be breast aware as described above and to see your doctor to check out any lumps or changes that are unusual 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:
Does Draining A Breast Cyst Hurt
The process of aspirating breast cysts is a simple one. It takes only a few minutes and usually causes no more discomfort than a blood test. The radiologist will insert a thin needle attached to a syringe into the cyst. The doctor then draws out the fluid, collapsing the cyst like a punctured balloon.
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What Do Breast Cancer Lumps Feel Like
Lumps in the breasts can be a serious concern, and people who perform regular self-exams often wonder exactly what breast cancer lumps feel like and how to tell them apart from non-cancerous, or benign, lumps. Breast cancer lumps are usually very hard and are often irregularly shaped. In the early stages, they may be about the same size as a pea, and can feel dimpled, much like the surface of a golf ball. Often, a cancerous lump cannot be moved around in the breast, and pressing on the area doesn’t usually cause discomfort.
Another potential indicator that a lump is a cancerous is when the skin becomes dimpled or puckered right above it. If the lump is in the nipple, the nipple could become inverted any lump accompanied by pink or bloody discharge may also be a cause for concern. Bruises on the breasts that appear suddenly can be a symptom of breast cancer, as well. Cancerous lumps may be found both near the surface of the breast and deeper inside, closer to the chest wall. They may also occur in the armpit area.
How Are Cysts Diagnosed And Treated
Your healthcare provider may find a cyst during a physical exam. He or she may confirm the diagnosis with a mammogram or ultrasound. You may also have a fine-needle aspiration. This involves guiding a very fine needle into the cyst and drawing fluid from it . This also serves as the treatment for this condition. Once the fluid is aspirated, the cyst collapses and disappears. But, cysts can reappear later, in which case they are simply drained again. Cysts are seldom cancerous .
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Cancer Tumors Versus Cysts And Fibroadenomas
Cysts, which are fluid-filled lumps, are common in the breast and are benign. They form when fluid builds up inside breast glands, and tend to be smooth or round. Fibroadenomas, which are benign tumors made up of glandular and connective breast tissue, are usually smooth and firm or rubbery to the touch. Both of these conditions tend to affect younger women fibroadenomas are most common in women in their 20s and 30s, and cysts are most common in women under 40.
Despite these common descriptions, it is impossible to tell by touch whether a lump is cancer.
What Do Benign Breast Lumps Look And Feel Like
The majority of lumps found in the breasts are not cancerous. If you find a lump, the best thing you can do is go to your doctor for guidance. As one MyBCTeam member shared, My doctor was wonderful in teaching me about discerning how a lump might feel as opposed to a cyst, scar tissue, or a fold in the implant. Have a talk with your doctor.
The following are other breast conditions that can cause noncancerous lumps:
- Sclerosing adenosis
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If You Find A Breast Lump
Most benign breast conditions are treatable, and some will even go away on their own, but it’s best to let your doctor be the one to tell you that. All breast lumps should be evaluated by a medical professional, who will help you decide how to proceed. Because of the fluctuations in breast tissue that occur in response to hormonal changes throughout the month, its typically a good idea to do a self-exam at the same point every month, such as a few days after the end of your menstrual cycle.
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Breast Cancer: Why Me
The most obvious risk factor for breast cancer is being a woman. Men get the disease, too, but itâs about 100 times more common in women. Other things that make it more likely include being over age 55 or having a close relative who had the disease. Still, up to 80% of women with breast cancer have no family history of the illness.
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Fibrosis And Simple Cysts In The Breast
Many breast lumps turn out to be caused by fibrosis and/or cysts, which are non-cancerous changes in breast tissue that many women get at some time in their lives. These changes are sometimes called fibrocystic changes, and used to be called fibrocystic disease.
Fibrosis and cysts are most common in women of child-bearing age, but they can affect women of any age. They may be found in different parts of the breast and in both breasts at the same time.
Shape Of Breast Cancer Lumps
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Is It A Breast Cancer Lump
Lumps or masses in the breast are common. Thankfully most of them are benignmeaning they are not cancerous. Fluid-filled cysts and noncancerous tumors such as fibroadenomas can often present as a lump, raising concern of cancer. Benign breast conditions, like fibrocystic changes, can cause the breasts to feel lumpy. So how can you tell if a mass is a breast cancer lump and not one of these other conditions?
A breast cancer lump is usually hard with irregular borders and painless. They can occur anywhere in the breast or even the armpit. It can be difficult to tell if a mass is mobile or just moving the tissues around it.
Bottom line? Simply feeling the breast doesnt give you enough information to tell the difference between a cancerous mass and a benign one. The key is to know your breasts, pay attention to any changes and get anything out of the ordinary checked by a medical professional for further work-up.
What Does A Breast Cyst Look Like
Signs and symptoms of a breast cyst include: A smooth, easily movable round or oval lump that may have smooth edges which typically, though not always, indicates it’s benign. Nipple discharge that may be clear, yellow, straw colored or dark brown. Breast pain or tenderness in the area of the breast lump.
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Vacuum Assisted Excision Biopsy
You may be offered a vacuum assisted excision biopsy to remove the fibroadenoma. This is a way of removing small fibroadenomas under local anaesthetic, without having an operation under general anaesthetic.
After an injection of local anaesthetic, a small cut is made in the skin. A hollow probe connected to a vacuum device is placed through this. Using an ultrasound as a guide, the fibroadenoma is sucked through the probe by the vacuum into a collecting chamber. The biopsy device is used in this way until all of the fibroadenoma has been removed. This may mean that surgery can be avoided.
The removed tissue is sent to a laboratory and examined under a microscope.
This procedure can cause some bruising and pain for a few days afterwards. Removing a fibroadenoma does not usually affect the shape of the breast, but there may be a slight dent in the breast where it has been removed.
Will Lumps Go Away On Their Own
Sometimes, lumps disappear on their own. Younger people may get lumps related to the menstrual cycle . Those lumps go away by the end of the cycle. However, always notify your healthcare provider about any lumps. Your provider can figure out what is causing the lump and determine if it needs further workup or treatment.
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What Is A Normal Breast
No breast is typical. What is normal for you may not be normal for another woman. Most women say their breasts feel lumpy or uneven. The way your breasts look and feel can be affected by getting your period, having children, losing or gaining weight, and taking certain medications. Breasts also tend to change as you age. For more information, see the National Cancer Institutes Breast Changes and Conditions.external icon
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.
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Key Points About Breast Lumps And Changes
Breast Cancer Lumps: What Does One Feel Like
Feeling a lump in your breast can be frightening especially if you have had breast cancer. As one MyBCTeam member wrote, Every night when Im in bed, I feel the lumps and get anxious. How could I not?! Although more than 80 percent of breast lumps turn out to be benign , it may be difficult for you to tell whether a lump is a cause for concern.
This guide will help you become more familiar with what normal bumps and variations in your breasts feel like versus lumps that may be cancerous. Tell your health care team immediately if you find a new lump in your breast. If the lump does turn out to be cancerous, early detection through procedures like screening mammograms is key to achieving the best possible outcomes. One MyBCTeam member offered great advice: Trust your instincts and if you have any concerns at all, speak to your doctor and get it checked. Always better to be safe than sorry.
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Breast Lumps And Pain Medications
When nonmedical treatment fails to control cyclic breast pain, your health care professional may prescribe birth control pills or danazol . Be sure to ask about possible side effects of these medications and report them to your doctor if you experience them.
- Many other drugs have been tried in the treatment of cyclic breast pain and have been found not to be useful or are generally not recommended because of their side effects.
- Noncyclic breast pain is managed by treating the underlying cause. If a mass or lump is found, it is checked and treated. When your breast pain is caused by chest wall tenderness, it is treated with anti-inflammatory medication or rarely by steroid injections.
- If no cause for the noncyclic pain is found, a pain treatment protocol for cyclic pain is usually tried and often found to be successful.
- For simple mastitis without an abscess, oral antibiotics are prescribed. The antibiotic chosen will depend on the clinical situation, your doctor’s preference, and your medication allergies, if any. This medicine is safe to use while breastfeeding and will not harm the baby.
- Chronic mastitis in nonbreastfeeding women is more complicated. Recurrent episodes of mastitis are common. Occasionally this type of infection responds poorly to antibiotics. Therefore, close follow-up with your doctor is mandatory.
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.
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Always Seek Medical Attention Even During The Coronavirus Pandemic
The key point is that a woman should seek medical attention for any concerning lumps in her breasts, says Harold Burstein, MD, PhD, a breast oncologist with the Susan F. Smith Center.
Simple imaging techniques, such as a mammogram or breast ultrasound, can usually provide reassurance that the breast lump is benign. If necessary, a breast MRI or biopsy can be used to evaluate whether the lump is cancerous.
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