Not every breast lump is cancer, but you need to be aware

Posted by Cancer Specialist on Oct, 16, 2018 ,  Category: Blog
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It can be unnerving to find a lump in your breast. But most lumps aren’t breast cancer. In fact,
more than 80 percent of them end up being benign . Here are the facts on some common
benign breast lumps.

What to do if you notice a lump in your breast? Don’t panic…you shouldn’t be alarmed,
but you need to be aware. The likelihood that it’s benign is much greater than it not
being benign, especially if you’re younger.

Not every breast lump is cancer, and benign masses are very common. Lumps that are
benign may be tender and feel smooth and movable. They may also change in size.
However, a physical exam alone cannot reliably distinguish a benign lump from a
suspicious mass.

Any newly discovered lump requires attention. For women of screening age, that is true
even if you recently had a negative mammogram. Another mammogram may be
necessary to compare to previous ones. Ultrasound, too, is very helpful to characterize
lumps in women of all ages.

It is advisable for women to talk to their doctor about any new lump they find, keeping
in mind that it could very well be one of the following:

  • A Cyst
    Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that don’t require treatment but can be drained if they cause
    discomfort. Sometimes they are sensitive to the touch; other times they are barely
    noticeable. They tend to bubble up close to a woman’s menstrual period and go away
    on their own.

    Cysts are quite common in young women. They can also be found in middle-aged and
    older women, especially those who have fibrocystic (lumpy) breast tissue. Cysts can
    run in families. In women under 30, doctors often use ultrasound testing to find them —
    a mammogram usually isn’t warranted.

  • A Fibroadenoma
    Fibroadenomas are common and happen when benign breast tissue forms a mass. They
    are usually found in women younger than 50. Some shrink and go away on their own,
    and others do not. Like cysts, fibroadenomas don’t require treatment.

    Because it looks solid (as opposed to filled with fluid) on an ultrasound, a woman may
    need a biopsy to confirm the presence of a fibroadenoma. But this may not always be
    necessary.

    There are imaging features that strongly suggest a mass is a fibroadenoma. If all the
    criteria are met, in people prone to have fibroadenomas — such as younger women —
    there is literature stating that they may sometimes be safely followed by a physical
    exam and imaging rather than needing a biopsy right away.

  • Tissue
    Sometimes what feels like a lump is actually just breast tissue. A ridge of tissue or a
    thicker area of the breast can mimic the feel of a lump. This can ring especially true for
    women who do not perform regular breast self-exams and might not be familiar with
    what their breasts tend to feel like.
  • Abnormal lumps
    Abnormal breast lumps typically feel solid and do not move around easily under the
    skin. It is possible for these tumours to be benign , however any hard lumps on your
    breasts should be evaluated by a doctor.

    Breast self-exams can help women familiarize themselves with their breasts. They may
    not be helpful for everybody, however. Women who have very lumpy breasts, for
    example, can end up having intense anxiety about what they feel during self-exams.

    The key message is that women should stay aware, but not to the point of
    preoccupation, of the look and feel of their breasts. If you notice something in the
    shower or when you turn over in bed, of course, don’t ignore it. But you shouldn’t feel
    extreme anxiety or confusion. Ideally women of all ages should checking their breasts
    every four to six weeks so they can spot any unusual changes quickly and which may
    save their lives.

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