Read below about breast lump, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your breast lump from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Breast Lump Symptoms

It is unlikely that any woman would jump at the chance to describe something in her body as "lump," however, almost every woman will discover a lump in her breast at some point during her life. While not necessarily an attractice term, most of these lumps are benign and are the normal result of the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, lactation (nursing), or aging. Occasionally, lumps are caused by infection or injury.

Healthy breast tissue is naturally lumpy because it is filled with ducts and tissue designed for the production of milk. If both breasts have about the same degree of "lumpiness", you are almost certainly feeling normal tissue. It is only when you find a lump that doesn't seem to match the rest that there may be a concern.

Characteristics:

These descriptions are very general. There can be variations in each type of breast lump, and anything that you feel uncertain about should be examined by your medical provider.

  • Benign breast lumps are most often:

    • Fairly soft, smooth, and rounded.
    • Easily moveable.
    • Found either in the breast itself or in the armpit.
    • Sore or painful if touched or pressed.
    • Found in both breasts.
  • A more suspicious breast lump will be:

    • Small and firm, like the tip of your nose.
    • Painless when touched or pressed.
    • Found in the breast itself or in the armpit.
    • Most often found in only one breast.

Duration of symptoms:

  • Some lumps may come and go related to the menstrual cycle.
  • Some are temporary and connected to trauma, infection, or certain medications.
  • Others may appear for no apparent reason and remain.

Who is most often affected by breast lumps?

  • Women under age 40 often have fibroadenomas, which are rubbery, easily moveable benign masses consisting of breast tissue and fibrous connective tissue.
  • Women over age 40 often have cysts, which are benign fluid-filled sacs in the breast.

Are breast lumps serious?

  • All breasts have some degree of lumpiness and fibrous tissue in them, which is normal.
  • Any unexplained lump is more concerning, though most turn out to be benign.
  • Painless lumps that appear only on one breast, or in or near one armpit, should be investigated further.

Breast Lump Causes Overview

Hormonal changes:

Because breast tissue is sensitive to female hormones, lumps may become more evident during certain points in a woman's life.

  • Menstrual cycle. Movable, rubbery lumps in the milk ducts and surrounding tissue are sometimes more evident at various points in the menstrual cycle, due to the varying levels of hormones.
  • The breasts will often feel lumpy during pregnancy because they are enlarging in preparation for breastfeeding.
  • The milk ducts and milk-producing tissue are both enlarged and constantly changing during lactation and may feel different from hour to hour depending on how much milk is in the breast at any given time.
  • Pre-menopause and menopause. The wide variations in hormone levels as the body adjusts to menopause can cause the breasts to become more dense and fribrous and somewhat more lumpy and tender.

Infection:

A bacterial infection of the milk duct is not uncommon in a breastfeeding mother. It will cause the breast to look and feel hot, lumpy, reddened, and painful. These lumps are caused by infection and not by any sort of tumor (benign or suspicious).

Trauma:

Any physical damage to the breast tissue may result in scar tissue that will probably feel like a lump. The trauma may be due to:

  • Any sort of injury, accidental or otherwise.
  • Surgery.

Medications and supplements:

Certain types are known to cause lumps in the breast, though these lumps are benign.

  • Birth control pills.
  • Hormone replacement therapy given to some menopausal women to ease hot flashes and other symptoms.
  • Soy products and supplements, which can be purchased over-the-counter and are helpful to some menopausal women.
  • Some women report an improvement in breast lumps and fibrous changes if they eliminate caffeine from their diet.

Less common causes such as tumors:

  • Only about 20 percent of suspicious breast lumps prove to be cancerous, but any lump you are uncertain about can easily be examined with a mammogram, ultrasound, or biopsy.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Breast Lump

Updated on Aug. 29, 2018

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced breast lump. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Fibroadenoma

    Fibroadenomas are solid, noncancerous breast tumors that occur most often in adolescent girls and women under the age of 30. You might describe a fibroadenoma as firm, smooth, rubbery or hard with a well-defined shape.

    Chronic if left un-treated

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    breast pain, breast lump, round breast lump, movable breast lump, painless breast lump
    Symptoms that always occur with fibroadenoma:
    breast lump
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Breast Cyst

    A breast cyst is a fluid-filled sac (like a tiny balloon) inside the breast. Breast cysts are common in women. They might cause a little pain, but they are usually benign (not cancerous).

    Resolves with treatment but can recur

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    breast pain, breast lump, painful breast lump, movable breast lump
    Symptoms that always occur with breast cyst:
    breast lump
    Symptoms that never occur with breast cyst:
    armpit lump, fever
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Fibrocystic Breast Changes

    Fibrocystic change is a generalized term used to describe a variety of benign changes in the breast. Symptoms of this condition are breast swelling or pain, as well as nodules, lumpiness, or nipple discharge.

    Relapsing, lasting years

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    breast lump, hard breast lump, nipple discharge, rope-like breast lump
    Symptoms that always occur with fibrocystic breast changes:
    breast lump
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Breast Lump Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having breast lump.

    Breast Lump Quiz
  4. 4.Breast Cancer

    Breast cancer affects one in eight women during their lives. It is caused by uncontrolled and fast growth of damaged cells in the breast tissue. These cells can also move to the lymph nodes and sometimes other organs. The main symptom of breast cancer is a hard or firm, non-mobile, usually non-tender lump in the breast that increases in size.

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    breast pain, armpit lump, breast mass or retraction, breast lump, nipple discharge
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Breast Abscess

    A breast infection is an infection in the tissue of the breast. Breast infections are usually caused by a common bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, found on normal skin.

    2-3 weeks with treatment

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea, breast pain, signs of breast inflammation like redness, swelling or fever, fever, chills
    Symptoms that always occur with breast abscess:
    breast pain, signs of breast inflammation like redness, swelling or fever
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Intraductal Papilloma

    Breast problems such as lumps are very common and often not caused by breast cancer. An intraductal papilloma is such a benign breast lump situated in the milk ducts.

    Most often, removal of the lump is needed to prevent it from becoming cancerous on the long term.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    breast lump, painful breast lump, painless breast lump, white or clear fluid leaking from the breast, nipple lump
    Symptoms that never occur with intraductal papilloma:
    armpit lump
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Plugged Breast Duct

    If you're making milk faster than it's getting expressed, it can get backed up in the duct. When this happens, the tissue around the duct may become swollen and inflamed and press on the duct, causing a blockage.

    Days

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    breast pain, breast lump, painful breast lump
    Symptoms that never occur with plugged breast duct:
    fever, breast redness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Breast Lump Treatments and Relief

Seek immediate breast lump treatment in the emergency room or call 911 if:

  • You are breastfeeding and develop reddened, lumpy, painful breasts along with fever and are generally feeling very ill. This is an infection of a milk duct and requires antibiotics right away.

Schedule an appointment for:

  • A firm, painless lump anywhere in the breast or underarm area. This is the type to be most wary of.
  • Any other kind of unexplained lump or thickening in the breast or underarm.

Breast lump remedies that you can try at home:

  • Perform a breast self-examination every month. There are good instructions available on many websites, or in a pamphlet available from your medical provider.

FAQs About Breast Lump

Here are some frequently asked questions about breast lump.

Why does the lump in my breast hurt?

A painful breast lump can be caused by many conditions. Some breast discomfort can be caused by hormonal changes during the menstrual period as differing amounts of estrogen and progesterone cause the ducts of the breast to grow and atrophy in a cycle. Breast pain can also be non-cyclical, and can be caused by large breasts, hormone replacement therapy, growth of breast ducts (ductal ectasia), and infection of the breast caused by breastfeeding.

What kind of breast lumps are normal?

Breasts lumps that are non-malignant include fibroadenomas (rubbery masses that can be rolled), cysts (fluid filled masses), fibrocystic changes (breast inflammation and swelling associated with menses), galactocele (milk retention cyst), and fat necrosis (a benign condition caused by trauma to fat).

Why do my breast lumps move?

Breast lumps may be mobile or move if they are touched. This ability to be rolled or move is often associated with benign breast masses. Breast lumps that are stationary or affixed to the underlying muscle are more worrisome as indicators of malignancy.

Can a benign breast lump turn into cancer?

Yes, it is rare but a benign breast lump can become cancerous. For example, a fibroadenoma is a fat-based cancer. It is benign, but a small fraction of fibroadenomas are actually phyllodes tumors — a separate benign type of tumor that is extremely slow-growing. A small portion of phyllodes tumors can be cystosarcoma phyllodes — a rare malignant tumor.

Why do I notice breast lumps around the time of my period?

Fibrocystic changes of the breast is the medical term used for breast changes that may or may not be moderately painful and occur in sync with the menstrual cycle. They can occur on one breast or both breasts and can be affected by the hormones in birth control pills. Usually, they involve a mildly tender area in one or both breasts that tends to grow and recede in time with the menses.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Breast Lump

  • Q.Please say more about the lump on your breast. Do you feel pain when you touch the lump?
  • Q.Do you currently use estrogen as a hormone replacement therapy?
  • Q.Tell me more about the lump on your breast. When rubbing your lump, can you move the lump slightly from side-to-side?
  • Q.Please indicate where the lump is located on your breast.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our breast lump symptom checker to find out more.

Breast Lump Quiz

Breast Lump Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced breast lump have also experienced:

    • 13% Breast Pain
    • 3% Nipple Discharge
    • 3% Fatigue
  • People who have experienced breast lump had symptoms persist for:

    • 43% Over a Month
    • 21% Less Than a Week
    • 12% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced breast lump were most often matched with:

    • 33% Fibroadenoma
    • 33% Breast Cyst
    • 33% Fibrocystic Breast Changes
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having breast lump

Breast Lump Quiz