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Breast Cancer Health Center

Breast Lumps: 8 Myths and Facts

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By Sheryl Kraft
WebMD Feature

When you feel a lump in your breast, it's understandable to be concerned. But don't jump to conclusions.  

Instead, take action. Call your doctor to find out what it is. 

Also, make sure you haven't fallen for any of these 8 myths about breast lumps.

Myth 1: A Breast Lump Is Probably Cancer

Most breast lumps women feel -- 8 out of 10 -- aren't cancer. It's more common for them to be a cyst (a sac) or a fibroadenoma (an abnormal growth that's not cancer). Some lumps come and go during a woman's menstrual cycle.

You can't tell what it is by how it feels.

"It's always important to know your own body and detect a change which may need to be evaluated," says Beth Overmoyer, director of the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. "If it is cancer, then you may have saved your life." 

Myth 2: If You Have a Lump but Your Mammogram Is Normal, You're Done

You may need more tests, such as an MRI, ultrasound, or follow-up mammogram, to take another look at the lump. 

You may also need to get a biopsy, which is when a doctor takes a small sample of the lump to test it. 

Your doctor may also recommend getting checked more often.

Myth 3: Cancerous Breast Lumps Are Always Painless

Not necessarily. Although breast cancers aren't always painful, having breast pain doesn't rule out cancer.

Inflammatory breast cancer - which has early symptoms such as redness, swelling, tenderness, and warmth in the breast  -- can be painful when there is a lump, Overmoyer says.

Myth 4: If You Find a Lump While Breastfeeding, It Can't Be Cancer

Though breastfeeding does make you less likely to get breast cancer, it can still happen.  If you notice a lump while you're breastfeeding, don't ignore it. 

You may get an ultrasound to check it out, Overmoyer says.

Myth 5: If You're Young, a Breast Lump Can't Be Cancer

Not so. At any age, you should get breast lumps checked out by a doctor. 

Even though most women who get breast cancer are past menopause or older than 50, a lump can be cancer, even in a younger woman.

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