A 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 most often 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.They are most often not tender. Except in rare cases, they do not become cancerous later. A health care provider 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, often just before your menstrual period.
Other causes of breast lumps include:
See your 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 provider if:
Also call if:
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your provider will get a complete history from you. You will be asked about your factors that may increase the risk of breast cancer. The provider will perform a thorough breast exam. If you don't know how to perform a breast self-exam, ask your provider to teach you the proper method.
You may be asked medical history questions such as:
Steps your provider may take next include:
How a breast lump is treated depends on the cause.
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Swartz MH. The breast. In: Swartz MH, ed. Textbook of Physical Diagnosis. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 13.
Wolff AC, Domchek SM, Davidson NE, et al. Cancer of the breast. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, et al, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 91.
Review Date: 10/2/2015
Reviewed By: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, general surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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