Breast Lumps

When you find a breast lump, it can be terrifying. But breast tissue can change with things like nursing and hormones, and a lump doesn’t necessarily mean it’s cancer. 

In fact, most breast lumps are not cancer. Researchers estimate that between 60 and 80 percent of breast lumps are actually benign, or noncancerous. Lumps can occur for many reasons. Read on for more information about these causes and what a breast lump may mean.

Why breast lumps happen in women

Breast lumps in women can happen for a variety of reasons and are not always cancerous. Knowing the different kinds of breast lumps can help you understand your medical reports and help ease your mind.

Cysts

A breast cyst is a fluid-filled sac. They often happen in women who are nearing menopause. You might notice them getting bigger and more tender right before your period, and they can form very quickly. They are typically noncancerous and may be caused by blocked breast glands. They may feel soft or hard.

Abscess

A breast abscess is a pocket of pus from an infection. It creates a sore lump in your breast, as well as inflammation. It can also cause fever, fatigue, and nipple draining. You’ll need an examination, and it may be necessary to drain the pus.

Fat necrosis

Johns Hopkins Medicine says that fat necrosis may form round and hard lumps in your breast. They are generally painless and caused by damaged and disintegrating fatty tissues. These types of lumps often occur in women with larger breasts, after a blow to their breasts, or following radiation for breast cancer. These are not cancerous and do not increase your chances of developing cancer.

Fibroadenoma

Fibroadenomas are benign tumors in your breast. Some are very small and you can’t feel them, but you can feel others. They’re generally well-defined, moveable, and not tender or sore. The exact cause of these tumors is unknown, but it’s thought to be related to hormones. The American Society of Breast Surgeons Foundation says that these lumps are very common, occurring in about 10 percent of women in the United States.

Galactocele

Johns Hopkins Medicine says that a galactocele is also called a milk retention cyst. These lumps are fluid-filled and caused by a blocked milk duct. They are usually found in women who are or who have recently stopped lactating.

Hematoma

According to Breastcancer.org, a hematoma is a collection of partially clotted or clotted blood outside a blood vessel. It may be caused by trauma or injury. These lumps may develop a week to 10 days after surgery. They feel swollen, and you might be able to feel the fluid inside the lump moving around.

Sclerosing adenosis

According to the American Cancer Society, adenosis is a benign condition in which milk-producing glands in your breast, called lobules, are enlarged, and there are extra lobules present. 

In sclerosing adenosis, the enlarged lobules become misshaped because of scar-like tissue. Your breast may be painful. Because these lumps can sometimes feel like cancerous lumps, you may have a biopsy to rule out cancer and get a more accurate diagnosis. These lumps usually don’t require treatment.

Why breast lumps happen in men

Breast lumps can also occur in men. However, the American Cancer Society says that benign breast lumps are less common in men than women. Some breast cancers in men may present as a lump, but not all. 

Breast lumps in men are rare, but can be caused by a variety of conditions. such as:

Gynecomastia

Gynecomastia is the most common male breast disorder, according to the American Cancer Society. Rather than being a tumor, it’s an increase in breast tissue. Men usually don’t have enough breast tissue to be noticeable. 

In gynecomastia, there is a slight growth, almost disc-like, under your nipple that you can feel, and sometimes even see. It’s commonly caused by hormonal imbalance, certain medications, and chronic liver disease. Although, it isn’t cancerous, you need to call a doctor about any breast lumps.

Papillomas and fibroadenomas

Warts, or papillomas, and fibroadenomas can occur in men and women. These benign lumps can occur in your breast.

Cysts

While breast cysts are very common in women, a 2019 case report showed that they are very rare in men. Though, they do occasionally occur in men. They are benign and present as lumps that you can feel.

What to do if you feel a lump

If you feel a lump, try not to panic, even though it can be scary or worrisome. Most breast lumps are noncancerous, and there are many reasons a lump can form. 

It may be tempting to ignore it thinking you can wait and see if it goes away, but the best thing to do is call a doctor’s office or clinic and make an appointment as soon as possible. 

Things to do while waiting for your appointment can include:

  • making a note of where the lump is, what it feels like, and if it is painful
  • noting where you are in your menstrual cycle, if you are premenopausal
  • noting if anything makes the lump better or worse
  • talking with your relatives about your family’s history of breast cancer and other types of cancer
  • recalling when your last mammogram was done

Being prepared with this information can help complete your medical history and help a doctor discover what the breast lump may be.

What to expect at your medical appointment

It’s normal to be nervous about your medical appointment for your breast lump. Knowing what to expect can help calm your nerves. Some things you may expect include:

  • Your doctor will ask you questions about the lump, when you found it, what it feels like, and any other symptoms.
  • They may ask about a family or personal history of breast cancer.
  • They will do a physical exam of your breasts and armpits.

Depending on their findings, they may order tests to help them rule out possible causes or confirm a diagnosis. These can include:

  • mammogram
  • ultrasound
  • MRI
  • fine-needle aspiration

It’s also a good time to ask your doctor any questions if you have them. Questions may include:

  • What causes breast lumps?
  • What changes should I be looking for?
  • What should I do if I find another one or have other symptoms?
Bottom Line:

If you feel a lump, try not to panic. There is a good chance that it’s noncancerous, as most breast lumps are benign. Breast tissue can be lumpy or dense, and that’s normal. It’s a good idea to do monthly breast exams to get to know your breast tissue and what is normal for you. If you feel a lump that you’ve never felt or noticed before, or a lump that worries you, call your doctor. They can do an exam and order any tests that might help them with a diagnosis.

Reference:
https://www.healthline.com/reviewers/angelica-balingit-md
Written by Jaime Herndon, MS, MPH, MFA on July 21, 2021
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Azimi N, et al. (2019). Benign breast cyst in a young male.
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