DefinitionA breast lump is swelling, a growth, or a lump in the breast.
Breast lumps in both men and women raise concern for breast cancer, even though most lumps are not cancer.
Both males and females of all ages have normal breast tissue. This tissue responds to hormone changes. Because of this, lumps can come and go.
Breast lumps may appear at any age:
Lumps in a woman are often caused by fibrocystic changes, fibroadenomas, and cysts.
Fibrocystic changes are painful, lumpy breasts. Fibrocystic breast changes do not increase your risk of breast cancer. Symptoms are usually worse right before your menstrual period, and then improve after your period starts.
Fibroadenomas are noncancerous lumps that feel rubbery. They move easily inside the breast tissue. Like fibrocystic changes, they occur most often during the reproductive years. Usually, they are not tender. Except in rare cases, they do not become cancerous later. A doctor can feel during an exam whether a lump is a fibroadenoma. The only way to be sure, however, is to remove or biopsy the lump.
Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that often feel like soft grapes. These can sometimes be tender, especially just before your menstrual period.
Other causes of breast lumps include:
See your health care provider if you have any new lumps or breast changes. Ask about your risk factors for breast cancer, and screening and prevention for breast cancer.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your doctor if:
Also call if:
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your doctor will get a complete history from you, asking about factors that may increase your risk of breast cancer. The health care provider will perform a thorough breast examination. If you don't know how to perform a breast self-examination, ask your health care provider to teach you the proper method.
You may be asked medical history questions such as:
Steps your health care provider may take next include:
How a breast lump is treated depends on the cause.
Warner E. Clinical practice. Breast-cancer screening. N Engl J Med. 2011;365:1025-1032.
Cuzick J, DeCensi A, Arun B, Brown PH, Castiglione M, Dunn B, et al. Preventive therapy for breast cancer: a consensus statement. Lancet Oncol. 2011;12:496-503.
Heisey RE, McCready DR. Office management of a palpable breast lump with aspiration. CMAJ. 2010;182:693-696.
Review Date: 11/16/2011
Reviewed By: Dan Sacks, MD, FACOG. Obstetrics & Gynecology in Private Practice, West Palm Beach, FL. Review provided by Verimed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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