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Breast lumps

Definition

A breast lump is a growth of tissue that develops within your breast. Different types of breast lumps can vary in the way they look and feel. You may perceive a lump as a mass, growth, swelling, thickness or fullness.

You might notice:

  • A distinct lump with definite borders
  • A firm, hard area within your breast
  • A thickened, slightly more prominent area in your breast that's different from surrounding breast tissue
  • Other breast changes, such as redness, dimpling or pitting of the skin
  • One breast that's noticeably larger than the other
  • Nipple changes, such as a nipple that's pulled inward or spontaneous fluid discharge from your nipple
  • Persistent breast pain or tenderness, which might increase during your menstrual period

Sometimes, a breast lump is a sign of breast cancer. That's why you should seek prompt medical evaluation. Fortunately, however, most breast lumps result from noncancerous (benign) conditions.

Fibrocystic breast changes

Fibrocystic breast changes lead to the development of fluid-filled round or oval sacs (cysts) and more prominent scar-like (fibrous) tissue, which can make breasts feel tender, lumpy or ropy.

Causes

Breast lumps can be caused by:

  • Breast cancer
  • Breast cysts (a fluid-filled sac in your breast that's usually benign)
  • Fibroadenoma (a solid, benign mass most common in young women)
  • Fibrocystic breasts (lumpy or rope-like breast tissue)
  • Injury or trauma to the breast
  • Intraductal papilloma (a benign, wartlike growth in a milk duct)
  • Lipoma (a slow-growing, doughy mass that's usually harmless)
  • Mastitis (an infection in breast tissue that most commonly affects women who are breast-feeding)
  • Milk cyst (galactocele) — a milk-filled cyst that's usually harmless

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment to have a breast lump evaluated, especially if:

  • The lump feels firm or fixed
  • The lump persists beyond four to six weeks
  • You notice skin changes on your breast, such as redness, crusting, dimpling or puckering
  • You have discharge, possibly bloody, from your nipple
  • Your nipple is turned inward and isn't normally positioned that way
  • You can feel enlarging lumps in your armpit

Last updated: January 11th, 2018

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