Identifying Breast Lumps

Only a health care professional can determine the source of a breast lump; however, you may be interested to know that the presence of a lump in the breast can result from a number of women's health conditions aside from breast cancer.

Receiving a regular breast exam is an important step in breast cancer awareness and breast health and can help in early detection of a lump due to a number of causes.

Benign Breast Lumps

The following benign conditions are associated with the potential appearance of a breast lump. Read on to learn about the types of breast lumps that can occur, including distinguishing characteristics and the conditions with which they are associated.

Fibrocystic Changes

Fibrocystic changes refers to an overgrowth of fibrous tissue (fibrosis) or the multiplication of cells in the breasts' supporting tissue. This can result in the formation of small breast cysts due to blocked ducts in the breast that normally drain secretions.

The condition is fairly common and is usually associated with hormonal changes due to menstruation as well as menopause.

Symptoms of fibrocystic changes can include the following:

  • dull sensation or fullness in the upper sides of breasts
  • fibrocystic areas that blend into surrounding tissue and move when pressed
  • increased lumpiness and tenderness as menopause approaches

Treatment of fibrocystic changes in the breast can include the following:

  • reducing caffeine intake
  • wearing a more supportive bra
  • over-the-counter pain reliever medications such as Advil and Tylenol
  • oral contraceptives
  • danazol (a synthetic testosterone hormone)

Speak to your doctor about appropriate treatment options and the potential side effects of taking any medication to treat fibrocystic changes that may cause serious discomfort in the breast.

Breast Cysts

Cysts are another type of breast lump that often appear in women approaching menopause and that are linked to hormonal fluctuations.

A breast cyst usually develops due to dilated breast ducts that create fluid-filled sacs in the breasts.

The following are characteristics of breast cysts:

  • oval or round lumps that are smooth and firm
  • lumps that move slightly when pressed
  • breast lumps that feel hard and tender when touched
  • lumps that appear within two weeks prior to your period, and then resolve soon after the period
  • breast pain associated with the presence of the lumps

Treatment of breast cysts will typically involve fluid drainage by a thin needle inserted into the breast by the doctor.

Because breast cysts cannot be identified during a physical, your doctor may send the sample of fluid to a laboratory for further examination. A breast cyst that does not return six weeks after drainage will not require further treatment.

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