Suspicious breast lumps

Overview

A breast lump is a growth of tissue that forms in the breast. Most breast lumps aren't dangerous. But it's key to have your doctor or other health care professional check them promptly.

Symptoms

Breast tissue typically might feel lumpy or ropy. You also may have tenderness that comes and goes with your menstrual period.

If you have a health problem that affects your breasts, you might notice changes in how your breasts usually feel. These changes can include:

  • A round, smooth and firm breast lump.
  • A large, solid-feeling lump that moves easily under the skin.
  • A hard breast lump with an unusual shape.
  • An area of skin that has changed color or looks red.
  • Skin dimpling like an orange.
  • Changes in breast size or shape.
  • Fluid leaking from the nipple.

Causes

Breast lumps can be caused by:

  • Breast cysts. These fluid-filled sacs inside the breast are round, smooth and firm. A breast cyst can range in size from a few millimeters to as large as an orange. The tissue around it may be tender. A breast cyst may appear before your period and get smaller, larger or go away afterward. Breast cysts tend to come on quickly around the time of the menstrual cycle.
  • Fibrocystic breast changes. With these, you may feel fullness in your breasts. Some areas may be lumpy or ropelike. Your breasts may feel tender. It's common to have fibrocystic breast changes related to the menstrual cycle. The symptoms tend to get better after you have your period.
  • Fibroadenomas. These solid breast tumors aren't cancer. They're smooth, and they move easily under the skin when touched. A fibroadenoma may get smaller over time or grow larger. Factors that may be linked with fibroadenoma growth include being pregnant, using hormone therapy such as birth control pills or having a period.
  • Injury or post-surgery. A serious injury to breast tissue or a complication after breast surgery can create a breast lump. This is called fat necrosis.
  • Infections. A collection of infected fluid called an abscess in breast tissue also can cause a breast lump. The lump often is linked with breast pain, redness or other change to skin color in that area and swelling of the skin.
  • Intraductal papilloma. This is a skin tag-like growth in a milk duct. It is not cancer. An intraductal papilloma can cause the nipple to leak clear or bloody fluid. It's usually not painful. It may be seen during a breast ultrasound of the area under the nipple.
  • Lipoma. This type of lump can feel soft. It involves fatty breast tissue. It's often harmless.
  • Breast cancer. A breast lump that's painless, hard, unusual in shape and different from the breast tissue around it might be breast cancer. The skin covering the lump may thicken, change color or look red. It also may look flaky, dimpled or pitted like the skin of an orange. Your breast size and shape may change. You may notice fluid leaking from the nipple, or the nipple may turn inward. The lymph nodes under the arm or near the collarbone might be swollen.

See your doctor or other health care professional to learn what kinds of tests you might need and which type of breast lump you have.


Content From Mayo Clinic Updated: 08/30/2023
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