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Breast Lumps

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One of the most scariest things for a woman is the discovery of a lump in her breast or breasts. The first thing that comes into one's mind on the discovery of a lump is breast cancer. Not all breast lumps indicate cancer. Most of them are benign, non-cancerous growths that can easily be treated. Let us understand more about these breast lumps from the following paragraphs.

What are Breast Lumps?

Breast lumps are tissue growths in the breast that may vary in their appearance. They are mostly defined as a growth or swelling with varying thickness and fullness. Only 10% of all breast lumps are diagnosed as cancerous growth, that is, breast cancer. However, it is very important to seek medical help in case of any lump observed or felt in the breast.

What are the Characteristics of Breast Lumps?

Breast lumps have different characteristics as they vary in appearance and texture. Some of the characteristics of breast lump are as follows:

  • Thick area in the breast that feels different from the normal breast tissue
  • Change in size of breast, one seem larger than the other
  • Changs in nipple like fluid discharge or nipple appears sucked in
  • Feeling a lump that has a proper shape and size
  • Changes in breast skin like redness, pitting or even dimpling
  • The lump can be movable when touched
  • Pain in breast or lump
  • Breast tenderness
  • Lump in armpits with or without pain

Types of Breasts Lumps

There are different types of breast lumps some of which are as follows:

Breast Cysts

Type: Noncancerous, benign and harmless

Description: Breast cysts are fluid-filled sacs that grow within the tissues. They are smooth to touch and have an effect like a rubber ball. It can easily be moved around and may appear larger during menstruation.

These cysts are felt near the skin surface or the chest wall. They can develop deep within the tissue as well. They are very common in women who are in the 30-50 age group. Women who are nearing menopause may also notice these cysts.

Treatment: Breast cysts are treated with the help of a fine needle aspiration procedure. The fluid is drained with the help of a syringe and the cysts begins to shrink.

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Type: Noncancerous, benign lump

Description: Fibroadenoma is a painful lump that causes breast enlargement. It can appear in one or both breasts. They may cause a lot of pain in some women and slight discomfort in some. The exact cause of fibroadenomas is not yet known.

Fibrous and glandular tissues of the breasts make up the fibroadenomas. They feel round, hard and firm. They can be moved around on touch as they are present near the surface. These lumps are very common in teenagers and young women.

Treatment: The treatment of fibroadenomas includes laser ablation, excisional biopsy, cryoablation and lumpectomy.

Fat Necrosis

Type: Benign, noncancerous, harmless

Description: Normal fat cells within the breasts form fatty lumps. They are painful, firm lumps and may cause redness along with some bruising of the breast. They generally occur due to an injury or trauma to the fatty tissue of the breast.

Treatment: Fatty lumps generally heal without treatment. However, they can form a permanent scar tissue that is visible on a mammogram. In some cases, they need to be surgically removed, if they do not heal on their own.


Type: Noncancerous, harmless

Description: Slow-growing lump of fatty tissues is called as lipoma. These lumps can appear more commonly in middle aged women. Lipomas are rubbery to touch and can easily moved around with slight pressure. They are painless and usually cause no other symptom. The exact cause for the appearance of lipomas is unknown.

Treatment: Lipomas require no treatment. However, if they become very painful or continue growing, one may require the use of steroid injections or liposuction for shrinking these lipomas. In some cases, surgical removal becomes necessary.

Fibrocystic Breasts

Type: Benign and harmless

Description: One of the most common lumps to appear is fibrocystic breasts. They appear in the nodular or glandular tissues of the breast. These lumps cause tenderness, pain and lumpiness in the breast.

The exact cause is unknown but can appear due to the effect estrogen hormone. They are fluid filled scars and have a prominent scar-like fibrous tissue. They also cause enlargement of the breasts.

Treatment: If the fibrocystic breasts do not cause any symptoms, then no treatment is advised. When these lumps cause severe pain, treatment involves fine needle aspiration and surgical removal.

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Type: Noncancerous

Description: Infection of the breast tissues especially in the case of breastfeeding women is called as mastitis. It causes the breast to become warm, appear red and develop swelling. As it is a bacterial infection, it causes fever and chills too.

It appears due to a blocked milk duct or entry of bacteria into the milk ducts through the nipple or an opening of the milk duct. One can continue feeding, even if they suffer from mastitis.

Treatment: Mastitis is treated with the help of antibiotics. One may be advised painkillers to reduce the discomfort experienced. Rest, and increasing the intake of fluids will help in getting rid of mastitis.

Breast Cancer

Type: Malignant, cancerous and harmful

Description: A lump of malignant, fast-growing tissue cells of breast indicates cancer. This lump has an irregular shape. It is very hard and cannot be moved around when touched. It is located near the surface or deep within the breast tissue. It is common in women during their fertile years as well as peri and post menopausal age.

There are different types of breast cancer, but ductal carcinoma (cancer of the milk ducts) is the most common type. Cancerous lumps cause bloody discharge from the nipple, change in breast shape and size, peeling and flaking of the nipple as well as inversion of the nipple.

Cause of breast cancer is not very clear, but it is thought some women inherit genes that lead to cancer. It has been found many patients have a family history of cancer.

Treatment: Treatment for breast cancer involves the use of targeted drugs that attack cancer cells. In some cases, surgery is required and one may have to undergo lumpectomy, mastectomy, axillary lymph node dissection or sentinel node biopsy. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy is also advised to treat malignant cancers.

Diagnosis of Breast Lumps:

It is very important for every woman to carry out self examination regularly. Any unusual lump noticed should be reported to the doctor. Routine breast examination by the doctor will help diagnose any appearance of lump sooner and differentiate between the malignant and benign ones.

Treatment of Breast Lumps:

As mentioned above, treatment depends on the type of lump. Most of the lumps are treated with ‘wait and watch’ technique, when the lump is found to be noncancerous.

Breast lumps are most of the time benign and harmless in nature. But, one cannot tell when these painless, harmless lumps turn out to be cancerous. Thus, make sure you get yourself examined and undergo a mammogram under the advice of the doctor. In case of breasts, it is never wise to throw caution to the wind.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: February 25, 2015

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