Breast Problems - Topic Overview
Breast lumps or changes are a common health worry for most women.
Women may have many kinds of breast lumps and other
breast changes throughout their lives, including
changes that occur with menstrual periods, pregnancy, and aging. Most breast
lumps and breast changes are normal.
See a picture of the
breast anatomy .
Breast development is the first sign of puberty in young
girls. Usually, breasts begin as small, tender bumps under one or both nipples
that will get bigger over the next few years. It is not unusual for one breast
to be larger than the other or for one side to develop before the other. A girl
may worry that a lump under the nipple is abnormal or a sign of a serious
medical problem when it is a part of normal breast development.
Common, noncancerous (benign) breast changes
Many women with breast pain or breast
lumps worry about breast cancer.
The earlier breast cancer is detected,
the more easily and successfully it can be treated.
There are two
common methods of early detection:
- Mammogram. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast that can often find tumors that are too small for you or your doctor to feel. Experts do not agree about when or how often women should have mammograms. Some recommend that you begin screening at age 40, and some recommend that you begin screening at age 50. Your doctor may suggest that you have a screening mammogram at a younger age if you have risk factors for breast cancer.
- Clinical breast examination (CBE).
During your routine physical exam, your doctor may do a clinical breast
exam. During a CBE, your doctor will carefully feel your breasts and
under your arms to check for lumps or other unusual changes. Talk to your doctor about whether to have a clinical breast exam.
Breast self-examination (BSE) involves checking your
breasts for lumps or changes while standing and lying in different positions
and while looking at your breasts in a mirror. Once you know what your breasts
normally look and feel like, any new lump or change in appearance should be
evaluated by a doctor. Most breast problems or changes are not caused by
cancer. But BSE should not be used in place of clinical breast examination
and mammography. Studies have not shown that BSE alone reduces the number of
deaths from breast cancer.
cancer is often seen on a
mammogram before there are any symptoms. The most
common symptom of breast cancer is a painless lump. But sometimes painful
lumps are cancerous. Other symptoms of breast cancer include:
- Skin changes, such as dimpling or
- Changes in the color or feel of the
- Nipple discharge.
- Darkening of the area around
- A nipple being drawn inward.
- Any breast
problem that lasts more than 2 weeks.
- A breast lump in a man.