4 Warning Signs A Breast Lump Might Be Cancerous, And What To Do If You Find One

Date April 18, 2018

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer affecting women and the most common type of cancer in general. Fortunately, the disease is highly treatable if found early. New screening methods and increasing awareness have made breast cancer much less deadly than it used to be. But how do you know whether you have it? And should you worry if you find a lump in your breast?

It's true that women of all ages should be wary of any unusual changes in their breasts and share their concerns with their doctors if they feel that something is wrong. But the truth of the matter is, 80% to 85% of breast lumps aren't cancerous. Most women who are still menstruating experience changes in their breasts every month around the time of their periods.

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Types of non-cancerous breast lumps

Below, we list a few types of breast lumps that aren't cancer:

  1. Fibrocystic changes. They affect almost half of all women and can be described as general lumpiness. These changes are especially pronounced before and during periods.
  2. Breast cysts. These are benign fluid-filled sacs, and they are common in women aged 35 to 50.
  3. Fibroadenomas. These are solid, usually small and movable masses, and they are common in teens who have started menstruating and young women in their 20s.

Lumps can also be felt if there's a breast infection (mastitis), or they can form as a result of an injury to the breast.

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A few signs that a breast lump might be cancerous

As we have clarified above, not all breast lumps are cancerous. But a breast lump is more likely to be malign if:

  • it's solid;
  • it has uneven edges;
  • it doesn't shrink after your period is over;
  • it's accompanied by other symptoms, such as clear or bloody nipple discharge, nipple retraction, and swelling, redness, and pain in the breast.

It's important to stress that not all breast cancers meet the description above.

What to do if you find a lump in your breast

If you detect any suspicious changes in your breasts, report the symptoms to your gynecologist.

Women are told to check their breasts every month and report any unusual changes to their doctors. Follow this precautionary measure, but don't forget that cancerous tumors aren't always easily palpable. So even if no lumps can be felt when you self-examine your breasts and when your doctor performs a physical exam, you still need annual mammograms.

If anything suspicious is detected during a physical exam by your gynecologist, he or she will likely order a mammogram and possibly addition imaging tests, such as an ultrasound. If your doctor suspects a lump might be cancerous, he or she will order a biopsy to look for abnormal cells in the lump.

So, if you find a suspicious lump in your breast, tell your doctor about it. It's unlikely that it will turn out to be cancerous, but it's best to consult a medical professional and know for sure.

You should be especially cautious if you have already gone through menopause, as any regular monthly changes in your breasts are supposed to stop once you are no longer menstruating.

Source: Breastcancer, American Cancer Society, Mauer Society, Everyday Health

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This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.