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Definition Return to top
There are many causes for lumps in the breast. These range from normal changes in your body to abnormal breast disease. Breast lumps are either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
See also: Breast lumps and cancer
Causes Return to top
Some lumps are age-dependent. Newborn boys and girls both have lumps of enlarged breast tissue beneath the nipple, which have been stimulated by the mother's hormones. These disappear within a few months of birth.
Beginning as early as age 8, girls may develop tender lumps beneath one or both nipples (frequently only one). These lumps are breast buds and are one of the earlier signs of the beginning of puberty.
Boys at mid-puberty (usually around age 14 or 15) may develop tender lumps beneath one or both nipples, also in response to the hormonal changes of puberty. These tend to disappear over a period of 6 months to 1 year. See: Gynecomastia
It is also important to remember that hormonal changes just prior to menstruation may give a lumpy or granular feeling to the breast tissue.
The discovery of a lump in the breast usually brings the thought of breast cancer immediately to mind. Breast cancer may occur in men and women, but it is much more common in women. For specific information, see the article on breast cancer.
However, it is important to remember that 80-85% of all breast lumps are benign, especially in women under age 40. Benign causes of breast lumps include:
Symptoms Return to top
Symptoms depend on the underlying cause of the lump. Signs of a potentially cancerous breast lump may include:
Exams and Tests Return to top
The doctor will perform a breast exam to feel for lumps. Tests that may be used to determine if a lump is cancer may include:
Treatment Return to top
Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the breast lump.For specific treatment information, see the article on the specific disease.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The long-term outlook depends on the type of problem. See the specific condition for detailed information.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you find a new, unusual, or changing lump during your breast self-examination.
Also call for an appointment if you are a woman:
Prevention Return to top
To avoid fibrocystic changes in your breast tissue, avoid excessive fat and caffeine in your diet.
Most cases of breast cancer cannot be prevented. However, early detection and prompt treatment is important. All women over the age of 40 should perform breast self-exam monthly, preferably at the end of their menstrual period when the breasts are less tender. Women who are breastfeeding should examine their breasts after completing a feeding. Also get routine breast exams from your doctor and routine mammograms.
References Return to top
Saslow D, Hannan J, Osuch J, et al. Clinical breast examination: practical recommendations for optimizing performance and reporting. CA Cancer J Clin. 2004; 54:327-344.Update Date: 7/17/2007 Updated by: Robert Hurd, MD, Professor of Endocrinology, Department of Biology, Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH, and physician in the Primary Care Clinic, Cincinnati Veterans Administration Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.