Breast Lumps In Women (cont.)
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- What are causes of breast lumps?
- Infections that cause breast lumps
- Injuries that cause breast lumps
- Non-cancerous growths that cause breast lumps
- Symptoms of breast cancer
- What determines breast cancer risk?
- How are breast lumps evaluated?
- How can a woman be certain that a lump is not cancer?
- How are breast lumps treated?
- Breast Lumps At A Glance
- Find a local Obstetrician-Gynecologist in your town
Injuries that cause breast lumps
If a breast is injured by trauma, tiny blood vessels can rupture to cause an area of localized bleeding (hematoma) that can be felt as a lump. Trauma to the breast can damage the fat cells in the breast tissue, a condition called fat necrosis. The injury can also form a lump in the breast. These types of lumps that follow a significant trauma are not cancerous. Fat necrosis can also occur at the site of a previous breast biopsy.
Non-cancerous growths that cause breast lumps
- Fibroadenomas are benign (not cancerous) growths and are very common. These growths most commonly occur in women 30 to 35 years old, but can also occur in women under 30 years of age. Fibroadenomas are solid, firm tumors that are usually painless or only slightly tender. They sometimes grow quickly in teenagers or during pregnancy.
- Breast cysts are fluid-filled, tiny sacs within the breast tissue and are benign. They are very common, especially over the age of 35. These cysts often vary in size during the menstrual cycle and may be tender.
- Fibrocystic changes are characterized by breasts that are lumpy with many irregularities in the breast that feel almost grainy. Fibrocystic breasts seem to occur because a woman's breasts are extra sensitive to fluctuating hormone levels. Women with fibrocystic changes may have pain and/or lumps.
What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
The symptoms of breast cancer include painless breast lumps, nipple discharge, and inflammation of the skin of the breast. Sometimes breast cancer may not cause any symptoms.
Breast cancer usually causes no pain in the breast. Although women often worry about breast pain, most women with breast pain do not have breast cancer. Only about 6% of women with breast cancer have breast pain as their first sign of cancer.
Nipple discharge that occurs without the nipple being touched can be caused by benign (non-cancerous) growths. Examples of these growths are intraductal papillomas (non-cancerous growths that protrude into the milk ducts) and dilated areas of milk ducts (ductal ectasia). Nipple discharge can also be caused by cancer of the breast tissue. Because nipple discharge can be a sign of cancer, it needs to be evaluated by a doctor.
Skin changes on the breast, including redness and warmth, can sometimes be a sign of breast cancer. A form of breast cancer that commonly causes these signs of inflammation is Paget's disease of the breast. However, most inflammation or rashes on the breast are not due to cancer. They may be caused by benign problems such as nipple eczema or a fungus infection. Still, any breast rashes should be evaluated by a doctor. Areas that are especially scaly and red, particularly if they are persistent, or if there is also nipple discharge, are often sampled (biopsied) to rule out cancer.
Viewers share their comments
- Submit »
Find out what women really need.