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Alternative namesBreast mass
A breast lump is a swelling, protuberance, or lump in the breast.
Normal breast tissue is present in both males and females of all ages. This tissue responds to hormonal changes and, therefore, certain lumps can come and go.
Breast lumps may appear at all ages:
Lumps in a woman are often caused by fibrocystic changes, fibroadenomas, and cysts.
Fibrocystic changes can occur in either or both breasts. These changes occur in many women (especially during the reproductive years) and are considered a normal variation of breast tissue. Having fibrocystic breasts does not increase your risk for breast cancer. It does, however, make it more difficult to interpret lumps that you or your doctor find on exam. Many women feel tenderness in addition to the lumps and bumps associated with fibrocystic breasts.
Fibroadenomas are non-cancerous lumps that feel rubbery and are easily moveable within the breast tissue. Like fibrocystic changes, they occur most often during the reproductive years. Usually, they are not tender and, except in rare cases, do not become cancerous later. A doctor may feel fairly certain from an exam that a particular lump is a fibroadenoma. The only way to be sure, however, is to remove or biopsy them.
Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that often feel like soft grapes. These can sometimes be tender, especially just before your menstrual period. Cysts may be drained in the doctor's office. If the fluid removed is clear or greenish, and the lump disappears completely after it is drained, no further treatment is needed. If the fluid is bloody, it is sent to the lab to look for cancer cells. If the lump doesn't disappear, or recurs, it is usually removed surgically.
Other causes of breast lumps include:
Treatment of a breast lump depends on the cause. Solid breast lumps are often removed surgically, or at least a biopsy is taken. The biopsy is to check whether it is cancerous or not. Cysts can be drained. Breast infections require antibiotics.
For fibrocystic changes, birth control pills are often helpful. Other women are helped by:
If breast cancer is diagnosed, most women receive a combination of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and hormonal therapy. These options would be carefully assessed and thoroughly discussed with your doctor.
Call your health care provider if
Call your doctor if:
Also call if:
Your doctor will obtain a complete history from you, with special attention to factors that may increase your risk of breast cancer . A thorough breast examination will be performed. If you don't know how to perform breast self-examination, ask your health care provider to teach you the proper method.
Tests that may be performed include:
If you have a family history of breast cancer, your doctor may also suggest testing for genes that predispose you to breast cancer.
Breast cancer screening is an important way to find breast cancer early, when it is most easily treated and cured:
The American Cancer Society distributes a booklet demonstrating how to do self-breast exams.
Having fibrocystic breast tissue, mastitis, or breast tenderness related to PMS does NOT put you at greater risk for breast cancer. Having fibrocystic breasts does, however, make your self-exam more confusing since there are many lumps and bumps.
To prevent breast cancer:
Update Date: 9/12/2003Jacqueline A. Hart, M.D., Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Boston, Ma., Senior Medical Editor, A.D.A.M., Inc. Previously reviewed by Julie A. Miller, M.D., Department of Surgery, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Melbourne, Australia. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (5/7/2002).
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT