Most women will discover a breast lump during their lifetime. The good news is most of the time, breast lumps are noncancerous (benign).If you detect a breast lump for the first time you will definitely have a sense of surprise and anxiety. It’s always wise to seek medical evaluation of any lumps or swelling in your breasts.
While breasts are commonly associated with women, breast tissue is present and can be found in both men and women. Your hormones can affect this tissue. Hormonal changes in your body can cause lumps to form and in some cases, to disappear naturally. Breast lumps can develop at any age.
In babies, breast lumps can develop due to the estrogen they receive from their mothers during birth. Generally, these clear up as the estrogen leaves their bodies.
In pre-pubescent girls, they may sometimes get breast lumps that feel tender. Such lumps will go away naturally during puberty. Adolescent boys on the other hand can also get breast lumps during puberty. These are temporary and normally disappear in a few months as well.
How Healthy Brests Should Feel?
Breast tissue varies in the consistency with the upper-outer part of your breast being firm and the inner-lower parts feeling somewhat softer. In women, the breasts can become more tender or lumpy during your menstrual cycle. They tend to get less dense as you age.
Being familiar with how your breasts normally feel is important so you are aware of any changes.
But keep in mind, breast self-examination may cause you harm as you’re more likely to find a noncancerous lump which could be a source of worry. This may lead to unnecessary medical procedures to ensure that the lump is noncancerous.
Most experts recommend that women simply be aware of what their breasts normally look and feel like instead of performing breast self-examination.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF BREAST LUMPS
You should see your doctor if you notice any changes to one or both of your breasts, such as:
- An area of thickened tissue
- Nipple discharge (which may contain blood)
- Changes in the size or shape of your breasts
- Dimpling on the skin of your breasts
- A rash on or around your nipples
- A change in your nipple’s appearance
- Persistent pain in your breasts or armpits
- A lump or swelling in your armpits
TREATMENT OPTIONS AVAILABLE FOR BREAST LUMPS
Treatment type will largely depend on the underlying cause and any other symptoms you experience. Noncancerous breast lumps normally don’t need to be treated unless they are particularly large, painful or are growing.
Breast lumps such as fibroadenomas, breast cysts and fat necrosis may improve over time without treatment. When treatment is not necessary, you may require follow up if you notice any further changes to your breasts. Main treatment types for benign breast lumps are described below:
Treatment Option 1 : Medication
When it’s causing pain or is the result of an infection then medication may be recommended. Some medications that may be used include:
- Painkillers:Paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Tamoxifen, danazol or bromocriptine:Occasionally used to treat breast pain
- Antibiotics:Treat breast abscesses caused by bacterial infections
Reducing the amount of saturated fat in your diet and wearing a well-fitting bra to support your breasts may also help reduce pain for some people.
Treatment Option 2 : Drainage
Fluid or pus contained within a breast cyst or a breast abscess may need to be drained in some cases. This process is known as aspiration.
During the procedure, local anaesthetic is administered to numb the area being treated. A needle is guided into place using ultrasound scans so the fluid or pus can be removed. A small cut may be made into an abscess to drain the pus in rare cases.
This fluid sample may then be sent for testing to confirm the diagnosis.
Breast cysts that have been drained can sometimes refill. It’s important to visit your doctor if you notice changes to your breasts after treatment. While a cyst can be drained again, you may need surgery to remove it if it keeps refilling.
Treatment Option 3 : Surgery
A particularly large benign lump or one that’s getting bigger may require surgery to remove it.
The different types of benign breast lumps may sometimes need to be removed with surgery include fibroadenomas, breast cysts, fat necrosis and intraductal papillomas.
The surgery to remove the lump in your breast, it’s called a lumpectomy and is normally carried out under general anaesthetic. A special vacuum is used during the procedure to suck out the tissue forming the lump i some cases. The lump will be sent for testing to confirm the diagnosis.
You’d be able to go home the same day of the operation. Some possible risks and side effects of the operation may include temporary bruising, swelling or bleeding and an infection.
HOW TO DIAGNOSE BREAST LUMPS
- Consult with the doctor: Your doctor will ask you questions about when you discovered the lump and if you have any other symptoms. Your doctor may ask these questions:
- When did you first noticed the lump?
- Are you experiencing other symptoms such as pain or a discharge from your nipple?
- Do your symptoms change with your menstrual cycle?
- Have you ever injured your breast?
- Do you have any risk factors for breast cancer such as a close family member who has had breast cancer?
- What medications are you currently taking?
- Are you currently breastfeeding or have done in the past?
A physical exam of the breasts will also be performed. Additional testing may be ordered if your doctor cannot identify the cause of the lump.
- Mammogram: An X-ray of the breast to identify breast abnormalities. A diagnostic mammogram can be compared to previous screenings to see how the breast tissue has changed.
- Ultrasound: This noninvasive and painless procedure uses sound waves to produce images of your breast.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): A magnetic field and radio waves to take detailed pictures of your breast.
- Fine-Needle Aspiration: Remove fluid with a needle. An ultrasound is used to guide the needle in some cases. Noncancerous cysts go away when the fluid is drained. Bloody or cloudy fluid will be analysed by a laboratory for cancer cells.
- Biopsy: A sample of tissue is removed for analysis under a microscope. There are several types of breast biopsy:
- Fine-needle aspiration biopsy: Tissue sample is taken during a fine-needle aspiration
- Core needle biopsy: Ultrasound is used for guidance; a larger needle is used for this biopsy
- Vacuum-assisted biopsy: A vacuum probe is inserted into a small incision in the skin and a tissue sample is removed using an ultrasound
- Stereotactic biopsy: Images from different angles are taken with a mammogram and a tissue sample is taken with a needle
- Surgical biopsy (excisional biopsy): The entire breast lump along with surrounding tissue is removed
- Surgical biopsy (incisional biopsy): Part of the lump is removed