A breast lump is a growth that forms within the breast. Different types of breast lumps can vary in the way they look and feel.
You might notice:
- A distinct lump with clear-cut edges.
- A firm or hard area within the breast.
- A thicker, slightly raised area in the breast that's different from the tissue around it.
You also might see these changes along with a lump:
- An area of skin that has changed in color or turned red or pink.
- Dimpling of the skin.
- Pitting of the skin, which may look like an orange peel in texture.
- A change in the size of one breast that makes it larger than the other breast.
- Nipple changes, such as a nipple that turns inward or releases fluid.
- Lasting breast pain or tenderness, which is in one area or may go on after your period.
A breast lump can be a sign of breast cancer. That's why you should get it checked by your health care provider as soon as you can. It's even more important to get a breast lump checked after menopause. The upside is that most breast lumps are benign. That means they are not caused by cancer.
Breast lumps can be caused by:
- Breast cancer
- Breast cysts (which are fluid-filled sacs in breast tissue that are not cancer. The fluid in a cyst looks like water. An imaging test called ultrasound is used to find out if a breast lump is a cyst.)
- Fibroadenoma (a solid, benign growth within the breast glands. It is a common type of breast lump.)
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Intraductal papilloma.
- Lipoma (a slow-growing lump involving fatty breast tissue. It can feel doughy, and it is often harmless.)
- Trauma to the breast from a bump, breast surgery or other reasons.
Breast lumps also can be caused by health problems that can happen during breastfeeding, such as:
- Mastitis (an infection in breast tissue.)
- A milk-filled cyst that's usually harmless.
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment to have a breast lump checked, especially if:
- The lump is new and feels firm or fixed.
- The lump doesn't go away after 4 to 6 weeks. Or it has changed in size or in how it feels.
- You notice skin changes on your breast such as crusting, dimpling, puckering, or a change in color, including red and pink.
- Fluid comes out of the nipple. It might be bloody.
- The nipple recently turned inward.
- There is a new lump in the armpit, or a lump in the armpit seems to be getting bigger.