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
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:
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.
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
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.
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.