Discovering breast lumps and what may be causing them

November 12, 2012

Discovering breast lumps and what may be causing them

The discovery of breast lumps will cause great anxiety and stress to any woman. The key is to remain calm, be aware that there are many causes other than cancer and to get checked out as quickly as possible.

What are breast lumps?

Any woman who finds that she has breast lumps will immediately and understandably slip into a state of panic and anxiety. Whilst it is important to have them checked out as soon as they are noticed, it is also important for women to stay aware that there are many causes of breast lumps and to stay calm. The instinctual reaction is to presume that it is cancer but in actual fact many breast lumps particularly in younger women are not cancerous but simply benign little lumps. The only way to know for sure is to visit your doctor who can perform tests and then provide you with a proper medical diagnosis. Breasts are made up of muscles, fatty tissues, glands and breast ducts and breast lumps can develop in or around any one of these different components.

Causes of breast lumps

  • Physiological swelling and tenderness

Many women experience lumpy breasts as well as pain and tenderness during their menstrual cycle. The discomfort is due to a change in hormones and is usually the most noticeable in the week before a period is due. Older women aged between 30-50 are the most prone to this cause of nodularity (lumpiness).

  • Fibroadenoma

This condition is most common in those under the age of 40 and is the development of a benign breast lump due to excessive growth of the glands and breast tissue. Women suffering from this condition can feel round, firm, rubbery lumps, which can sometimes be moved around slightly under the skin when pressure is applied. Breast lumps in this case are rarely painful and in most cases disappear of their own accord.

  • Breast Cysts

These are breast lumps that contain fluid and are normally round, smooth and firm with some slight movement when pressure is applied. Although they can develop in women of all ages they are most common in those coming up to the menopause. In some women they tend to appear before their period and disappear by themselves soon after the period has finished. More persistent breast cysts can be removed through draining them.

  • Infection

Breast-feeling women appear to most commonly develop breast lumps due to infection. If the ducts carrying the milk become blocked it is possible for germs and bacteria to build up and enter the breast through a cracked nipple. Antibiotics and a hot press will usually resolve this problem.

  • Lipoma

It is possible for the fatty tissue within the breast to develop a fatty growth and when this happens it is known as lipoma. Once again it is a non-cancerous lump and often resolves itself.

  • Breast cancer

Of course on of the most well known causes of breast lumps is breast cancer. Although in most cases lumpy breasts are not due to cancer it is important to rule out the possibility at the earliest stage. As soon as you notice a breast lump of any changes or abnormalities with previous lumps, have it checked out immediately. In the case where breast cancer is the cause of lumps, the sooner it is caught the more successful treatment is likely to be.

When the cause is breast cancer

In the situation where you or your doctor discovers a lump, you may be referred to a breast clinic. Here you will be dealing with specialists who know exactly what to look for and how to identify a cancerous lump next to a benign one. Test will be performed such as a mammogram and CT scan and sometimes a biopsy of the lump may be required.

Mammography and other breast screening procedures are recommended for all women over the age of 50, as breast cancer is more likely to develop, as you get older. Regular screening optimises the chances of discovering cancer early and implementing a successful treatment regime. It is also advised to perform regular self-breast examinations and if you notice any lumps or changes in the breast, get seen by a medical professional as soon as possible.

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