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Breast lump

Definition

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.

Alternative Names

Breast mass

Considerations

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:

Causes

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, often just before your menstrual period.

Other causes of breast lumps include:

Home Care

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. You will be asked about your factors that may increase the risk of breast cancer. The health care provider will perform a thorough breast exam. If you don't know how to perform a breast self-exam, 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.

References

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.

Hunt KK, Green MC, Buchholz TA. Diseases of the breast. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery, 19th ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders; 2012:chap 36.



Review Date: 11/15/2013
Reviewed By: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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