07 Apr Breast Lumps
Eighty percent of breast lumps are benign i.e. not cancerous. Benign breast lumps usually have smooth edges and can be moved slightly when you push against them. However, it should be checked by a doctor to make sure the lump is benign. The doctor will confirm:
- The presence of the lump
- The size, shape, contour, mobility and sensitivity of the lump
- Presence or absence of other lumps
- A change in the feel or appearance of the skin on the breast or nipple (dimpled, puckered, scaly or inflamed)
- Bloody or clear fluid discharge from the nipples
- Any lumps in the armpits
There are several common causes of benign breast lumps:
- Fibrocystic breast disease
During normal menstrual cycles, changes in hormones can create changes in the breasts that are referred to as fibrocystic breast disease. Both breasts may have lumps that increase in size and tenderness just prior to menstruation. The lumps are milk ducts and surrounding tissues (see diagram in Breast self-examination) that have grown and dilated to form cysts. The cysts rapidly enlarge in response to hormones released near menstruation. The lumps may be hard or rubbery and may be felt as breast lump. Fibrocystic changes can also cause thickening of the breast tissue. Postmenopausal women are less likely to have these types of breast changes because hormone stimulation of breast tissue no longer occurs.
Fibroadenomas are common benign tumours found in the female breast. They are solid, round, rubbery lumps that move freely in the breast when pushed upon and are usually painless. Fibroadenomas are the result of excess formation of milk-producing glands and surrounding breast tissue. They occur most often between the ages of 20-30years.
- Intraductal papillomas
These are small growths in the lining of the milk duct near the nipple. They usually affect women 45 to 50 years of age and can produce bloody discharge from the nipple.
- Traumatic fat necrosis
This is not common and occurs when there is sudden injury to the breast, although most women may not recall the injury. This causes fat to form in lumps, which are generally round, firm, hard, single and painless.
- Breast infection (Mastitis)
Sometimes breast infections are first noticed as a painful lump, with or without redness. It often occurs in women who are breastfeeding. Mastitis is an infection caused by bacteria that enter the milk ducts through the nipple. Localized pockets of infection will appear as tender, warm lumps in the breast.