A Brief Guide to Breast Lumps
Women have been so informed about breast cancer in recent years that any indication of change in the breasts can cause worry. At River Oaks Gynecology and Aesthetics, breast exams are a routine aspect of annual well-woman care. If a lump is detected during this exam or during a self-exam at home, further testing is a likely next step. Understandably, the diagnostic process can only exacerbate the concern that already exists. Here, we want to discuss what a breast lump could be. We’ll begin by stating that most breast lumps are non-cancerous.
Benign Breast Lumps
Technically speaking, any grouping of cells that forms a lump may be referred to as a tumor. However, not all tumors are cancerous (malignant). Statistics indicate that 80 percent of the lumps detected and tested fall into the benign category. Examples of benign breast lumps include
Fibrocystic Breast Changes
Research suggests that 50 to 60 percent of women are affected by fibrocystic breast changes. Some refer to this as fibrocystic breast disease, but it’s really more of a benign condition in which fibrous lumps or numerous fluid-filled sacs develop as an overreaction to normal hormonal changes. Fibrocystic tumors are commonly identified in women aged 20 to 50 years old. Unless a woman is taking hormone supplements, breast cysts after menopause are uncommon. One of the characteristics of this condition is an increase in tenderness and size of fibrocystic lumps prior to menstruation. Studies suggest that the methylxanthines in tea, coffee, chocolate, and cola beverages invite these cysts. When consumption decreases or ends, cysts may go away altogether.
Fibroadenoma lumps are small tumors made up of glandular and fibrous tissue. These lumps are more commonly found in younger women, aged 18 to 35, and account for the majority of tumors in women under the age of 25. A fibroadenoma is typically movable when palpated during breast exams. Tenderness may occur prior to menstruation.
These small growths develop in the mammary duct lining and may cause discharge from one nipple. Papillomas may develop individually and feel like a tiny lump near or behind the nipple. Alternatively, it is possible for multiple papillomas to develop. These growths are typically not painful, leaving discharge and palpability the only indications.
Malignant Breast Tumors
One of the biggest questions that many women have is how to tell the difference between a benign and potentially cancerous breast tumor. In some cases, breast cancer is first suggested by a change in the appearance of one or both nipples, puckering or dimpling in the skin overlying the breasts, or nipple discharge. Usually, malignant breast tumors are painless. They feel like a hard lump or thickening of the breast tissue, usually in the upper outer quadrant of the breast (though they may occur in other breast quadrants).
If you have noticed a change in your breasts, schedule a breast exam with an experienced gynecologist. Contact our Houston office at (713)955-6560.