What Are Breast Lumps?
A breast lump is any growth or mass that forms in the breast tissue. Lumps can be soft or hard, stuck in place or easy to move around, and may or may not be painful.
Though breast lumps can be a sign of cancer, the majority are due to benign (noncancerous) causes. Conditions that cause breast lumps include:
- Breast cancers, which are usually firm, painless lumps with irregular edges
- Cysts, benign fluid-filled sacs that are associated with normal hormonal fluctuations
- Fibroadenomas, benign fibrous masses that occur for unknown reasons and usually feel firm, round and move easily when touched
- Fibrocystic changes, in which fibrous masses and cysts occur together
- Mastitis, a benign breast infection that occurs when a milk duct becomes clogged during breastfeeding, resulting in painful lumps
- Papillomas, lumps that form in the milk ducts, most often near the nipple. When benign, these lumps are called intraductal papillomas; when cancerous, they are intraductal papillary carcinomas.
- Trauma, which can cause benign lumps of hardened fat (necrosis) to form after a breast injury or surgery
Depending on the cause, symptoms may include:
- Nipple discharge — Discharge is clear, cloudy, milky, green, brown or bloody and can occur with conditions including mastitis, cysts, papillomas or cancer.
- Pain — Some breast lumps, including mastitis, papillomas and cysts, may be very tender to the touch.
- Skin changes — Redness, roughness, blistering, thickening, dimpling or itching of the skin may occur with several types of breast lumps.
Imaging procedures such as ultrasound, MRI or mammogram help determine if a lump is benign. If needed, a biopsy will confirm if cancer is present. Treatment options will vary according to the diagnosis and may include:
- Chemotherapy or radiation — Chemotherapy is a poison that kills cancer cells, and radiation destroys cancer cells using powerful X-rays.
- Medications — Over-the-counter and prescription medications may be used to relieve pain, reduce inflammation or clear up bacterial infection.
- Surgery — Surgery may be performed to drain cysts or mastitis abscesses, or remove fibrous masses or papillomas. Breast cancer typically requires surgical removal, and it may be followed by chemotherapy, radiation and/or hormonal therapy.
Ready for an Appointment?
If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of a breast lump, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.
Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat breast lumps.