You do a breast self-exam and find a lump. Now what?
If you notice any breast changes, you should call your doctor right away to get checked, but don't panic. Most breast lumps are benign, which means they're not cancerous. Benign breast lumps usually have smooth edges and can be moved slightly when you push against them. They are often found in both breasts.
Cancer didn't catch Christina Applegate unprepared. Because her mother had battled both breast cancer and ovarian cancer, Applegate had been going for regular mammograms since the age of 30. "But when I turned 36, my doctor said that my breasts were just too dense for mammography alone, and he referred me for screening MRIs at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center," she recalls.
Just a few months before she learned she herself had breast cancer, the actor got a shocking insight into the struggles faced...
There are several common causes, including normal changes in breast tissue, breast infection or injury, and medicines that may cause lumps or breast pain.
Breast tissue changes during a woman's entire life. It is sensitive to changing hormone levels during the menstrual cycle.
What Can Cause Benign Breast Lumps?
Fibrocystic changes. For some women, changes in hormones during normal monthly menstrual cycles can create breast changes. These are known as fibrocystic breast changes. Women with fibrocystic breasts usually get lumps in both breasts that increase in size and tenderness just before they get their period. They sometimes have nipple discharge as well.
The lumps are milk ducts and tissues around them that have grown and gotten wider to form cysts. The cysts enlarge quickly in response to hormones released near your period. The lumps may be hard or rubbery and may be felt as a single (large or small) breast lump. Fibrocystic changes can also cause breast tissue to thicken.
These changes are often most noticeable during your 40s. They are the most common cause of benign breast lumps in women ages 35 to 50. Postmenopausal women are less likely to have these types of breast changes. That’s because they don’t have monthly changes in hormones.
Simple cysts. Simple cysts are fluid-filled sacs that usually happen in both breasts. There can be one or many. They can vary in size. Tenderness and size often change with your menstrual cycle.
Fibroadenomas. These are the most common benign tumors. If you push on them they are solid, round, rubbery lumps that move freely. They’re usually painless. Fibroadenomas happen when your body forms extra milk-making glands. Women between 20 and 30 get them most often. They’re also more common in African-American women.
Intraductal papillomas. These are small, wart-like growths in the lining of the mammary duct near the nipple. They usually affect women who are 45 to 50. They can cause bleeding from the nipple.
Traumatic fat necrosis. This happens when there is an injury to the breast, thought you may not remember an injury happening. It causes fat to form in lumps that are generally round, firm, hard, and painless. You usually get one at a time.