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Quick Facts

Breast Lumps

By The Manual's Editorial Staff,

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What are breast lumps?

Breast lumps are bumps, growths, or hard areas that feel different from the rest of your breast. You might notice a breast lump by chance or during a breast exam.

  • Breast lumps are common

  • Most lumps aren’t cancer

  • Breast lumps may be painful or painless

  • Lumps may feel smooth, round, and movable or lumpy and thick

What causes breast lumps?

Cancer isn't the most common cause of breast lumps.

The most common causes of breast lumps are:

  • Fibroadenomas, which are small, smooth, movable, painless round lumps that usually happen in women who are at an age to have children

  • Fibrocystic changes, which are general lumpiness and pain in your breasts caused by monthly changes in female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone

Less common causes of breast lumps are:

  • Breast infection

  • A clogged milk gland after you stop breastfeeding

When should I go to the doctor for a breast lump?

Go to a doctor within 1 to 2 days if you have a breast lump and:

  • Redness, swelling, and pain

  • Pus leaking out

Go to a doctor within 7 days if you have a breast lump and:

  • The lump won’t move around (it feels stuck to your skin or chest)

  • The lump feels very hard and uneven

  • Swollen lymph nodes in your armpit that won’t move

  • Dimpling of your skin near the lump that looks like the skin of an orange

What will happen at my doctor visit?

Doctors will ask you questions about your symptoms and health. They’ll do an exam, including a breast exam to feel the lump.

To tell if your breast lump is cancer, doctors often do more tests, such as:

  • Ultrasound (a test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the inside of your breast)

  • Mammogram (x-ray of your breast)

Depending on your symptoms and the results of these tests, your doctor may:

  • Put a needle in the lump and take out fluid or a sample of tissue

  • Make a cut in the skin to take out part of the lump and look at it under a microscope (biopsy)

How do doctors treat breast lumps?

If your breast lumps are fibrocystic changes, doctors may:

  • Drain your cyst with a needle

  • Tell you to wear a soft, supportive bra, such as a sports bra

  • Tell you to take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to lessen pain

If your breast lumps are fibroadenomas, doctors may:

  • Do surgery to remove them

  • Leave them alone but schedule check-ups to look for any changes

If your breast lumps are breast cancer, doctors may do surgery to remove your tumor and give other types of cancer treatment, such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and medicine.