With all the breast cancer prevention advertising out there, it is pretty difficult not to get stressed if you feel a lump in your breasts, but you should know that not all lumps you might find are necessarily cancer-related. There are some situations in which those lumps prove to be benign.
That being said, if you notice a lump that has a marble-like consistency, if an area of your breast suddenly starts feeling firmer and thicker, if you experience pain that gets stronger in your breast, if your breasts don’t return to their usual state after your period ends or if you have some sort of discharge from your nipples, it is best to consult a specialist, even just to be on the safe side.
A lump in your breasts could be caused by one the following situations:
#1. Your period
The breast tissue changes before the period, but it should go back to normal afterwards. You might experience aches and some lumpiness before and during your period, but they should go away after the period ends.
They appear mostly in younger women and are not cancer-related. They usually feel rubbery and can move around in the breast tissue. Normally, they are not painful. If they are smaller than 2 cm and of regular shape, they are simple fibroadenomas and usually disappear by themselves, without raising the risk of breast cancer. If they are bigger and of irregular shape, they might slightly heighten the risk of breast cancer, and you should consider seeing a doctor.
#3. Fibrocystic breast changes
Fibrosis indicates the presence of connective tissue (scar tissue) in the breasts, and can feel lumpy. About half of the women in the US, especially between the age of 30 and 60, experience occasional breast fibrosis.
If there is fibrosis, cysts might appear too. These are round, fairly mobile liquid filled sacs inside the breast tissue. They can hurt a bit and the pain can get worse before your period. Neither fibrosis nor simple cysts need treatment, but a complex cyst, filled with liquid and solid matter, or only solid matter, needs to be investigated because it elevates the risk of breast cancer.
#4. Fat necrosis
It means that some fatty tissue has died due to some sort of trauma (like an elbow jab to the breast, high pressure from a seatbelt during a sudden stop, some sort of surgery or even radiation). The necrotic tissue sometimes feels rock hard and sometimes can appear a long time after the trauma that has caused it. Usually, after it is checked by a doctor and confirmed as necrotic fatty tissue, it is left alone to be cleaned up by the body.
#5. Phyllodes tumors
Their name comes from the Greek word for “leaflike,” and they usually present as a leaf-shaped growth with multiple nodules. Although they are rare (only about 1% of all breast tumors) and only about 10% of them are cancerous, they do need to be cut out because of their tendency to grow uncontrollably. They are most common in women around 40 years old and they don’t normally hurt.
#6. Papilloma tumors
They grow in the milk duct and can cause lumps near the nipple. They feel like a smooth marble and contain gland tissue, fibrous tissue and blood vessels. Because of that, they can cause a clear or bloody discharge from the nipple. They are most common in women between the ages of 35 and 55 and must be surgically removed from the breast together with the duct segment they’ve grown in.
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