Breast Lumps: What Is the Cause, and How Can It Be Treated?
You’re taking a shower when you suddenly feel a lump on your breast. What do you do?
The correct answer would be to book an appointment with your doctor. There’s no need to worry immediately, though. Most of these breast lumps are benign. In fact, most women will have them.
Still, there’s no harm in getting it checked out. It might not be cancerous but it might signal another condition.
Curious to know what these conditions are? Want to know what you can do about it? If so, be sure to read on!
8 Different Conditions That Can Cause Breast Lumps
According to the National Breast Foundation, up to 80% of breast lumps will be benign.
However, that doesn’t mean that you should ignore them—they can be indicative of another condition. Here’s what you need to know.
Mastitis refers to inflammation of the breast tissue. While it can affect all women, it is most common in those who are breastfeeding.
Why? Nursing can injure or crack the outer skin of the nipple. As such, bacteria can easily enter the body and cause infections.
Aside from thickening of the tissue, which can lead to a bump, it can cause tenderness, swelling, a burning sensation, redness—sometimes even a fever.
Given this, it’s not surprising that the condition can make it difficult to care for your baby.
For this reason, mothers are advised to visit their doctors if they have any of these symptoms. Antibiotics might be necessary in some cases.
2. Breast Cysts
Breast cysts are common in women—especially those between the ages of 35 and 50. Fluid-filled sacs, they can occur in one or both breasts. Round or oval in shape, they can feel firm, or hard like a grape.
Other symptoms include pain in the area, nipple discharge. It’s important to note that they do not increase the risk of breast cancer.
Fortunately, most of these cysts do not require treatment. If there is pain or discomfort, a physician can drain the fluid to alleviate symptoms.
A fibroadenoma is a benign mass that can develop in the breast. They often develop in young women between the ages of 15 and 25.
Painless, these bumps can be hard, smooth, or rubbery. It might feel like you have a small marble moving under the skin.
Treatment is not always necessary. In most cases, a physician will simply monitor the situation. In some cases, however, they might decide to perform a breast biopsy.
4. Intraductal Papillomas
Intraductal papillomas are non-cancerous tumors that develop in the milk ducts of the breast.
Close to the nipple, these lumps consist of fibrous tissue, gland tissue, and blood vessels. They are most common in those over the age of 40.
Other than the small bump, there might be a clear or blood-stained discharge from the nipple. While they’re not generally painful, they can cause some discomfort in the area.
In terms of treatment, doctors will usually perform surgery to remove the papilloma and part of the duct.
Lipomas are small bumps that can develop under the skin. They occur almost anywhere on the body—including the breasts. They’re also common in the shoulders, back, and neck areas.
Slow-growing, these fatty lumps are situated between the skin and muscle. Soft to the touch, they will usually move slightly if you press down on them.
Lipomas are typically detected in those between the ages of 40 and 60. Approximately 2% of the population will have these benign tumors.
Over time, these small bumps can grow in size. If it gets too large, a surgeon might have to remove it with surgery.
6. Fibrocystic Breast Disease
Fibrocystic breast disease is a noncancerous condition in which cysts form in the breast tissue.
The most common symptoms include breast pain, tenderness, and swelling. They are usually felt on both sides.
It’s possible to relieve pain by taking oral contraceptives or over-the-counter painkillers. Wearing a supportive bra can also help.
In the case of a large, painful cyst, a physician may drain the fluid with a type of biopsy called fine needle aspiration.
Women with this condition may have a greater risk of developing breast cancer if they also have a family history of breast cancer.
7. Fat Necrosis
Fat necrosis is a benign condition that can affect women of any ages. It typically occurs after physical trauma, radiation, or surgery to a particular area.
While they’re often associated with breasts, the masses can occur anywhere on the body including the thighs, buttocks, and abdomen.
Firm and round, these bumps are usually painless. Other characteristics include redness, a bruised appearance, nipple retraction, and thickened skin.
The condition normally does not require treatment as it is harmless. In fact, it’s possible for the body to break down the lumps over time.
Galactoceles are milk-filled cysts that can appear in breastfeeding women or those who’ve recently weaned.
They usually consist of fat, proteins, and lactose. Somewhat movable under the skin, they can cause pain, fever, or flu-like symptoms.
In the case of constant discomfort, doctors can perform a fine needle aspiration biopsy, which can help to relieve pain. They might also prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection.
It’s Better to Be Safe Than Sorry
As you can see, there are several conditions out there that can cause breast lumps—it’s not always cancer.
With that said, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Why leave it up to chance when you can get a proper diagnosis from the doctor?