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Overview of Breast Lumps: Definition, symptoms, causes & treatment

Team AckoJan 24, 2023

Breast Lumps (BL) are abnormal swellings or bumps in the breast. They can be harmless and benign, or they can be a sign of something more serious. It is vital to have BL evaluated by a healthcare professional to make sure they are not dangerous. This article gives an overview of BL along with commonly asked questions. Read ahead to explore.

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Contents

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Signs of having Breast Lumps

Here is a list of symptoms of Breast Lumps.

  • A lump or area of thickness in the breast.

  • Changes in the size and shape of the breast.

  • Changes in the feel of the breast or the nipple, such as puckering, dimpling, or thickening of the skin.

  • A sore, red, or swollen breast that lasts for more than a few days.

  • Fluid discharge from the nipple.

  • Itching, burning, or scaling of the nipple or surrounding area.

  • A rash or discolouration on the breast.

  • Any new pain or discomfort in the breast or armpit area.

  • Lump or abnormality that can be felt in the armpit.

Causes and types of Breast Lumps

Here is a rundown of the causes and types of Breast Lumps.

  • Cysts: These are fluid-filled sacs that can form in the breast tissue. They are usually benign and feel like soft, round lumps which can move around easily.

  • Infection: Infection in breasts can cause lumps to form. Infection can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi within the body. Symptoms vary depending on the type of infection but may include redness or warmth in the area, swelling, tenderness, and pain.

  • Trauma: Lumps may form due to trauma to the breast, such as from a blow or injury to the breast tissue. This can cause damage to the cells and result in swelling or a lump.

  • Fibroadenomas: These are benign lumps made up of both glandular and fibrous tissue. They are usually firm, round and movable.

  • Fibrocystic breast changes: These are non-cancerous changes in breast tissue that can cause lumpiness and discomfort.

  • Cancer: Breast cancer is the most serious cause of Breast Lumps and should be examined by the doctor immediately. Cancer lumps usually feel hard and are usually not movable.

  • Hamartoma: A non-cancerous type of lump that is made up of both glandular and fibrous tissue. They are usually small and firm, but may be irregular in shape.

  • Lipomas: These are non-cancerous lumps of fatty tissue that can form around the breast. They are slow-growing and feel soft and movable.

  • Intraductal papilloma: This is a benign condition that can cause non-cancerous lumps in the breast. It is characterised by small cysts that form in the milk ducts of the breast. These lumps typically feel smooth and aren't necessarily painful.

Diagnosing Breast Lumps

When a woman discovers a breast lump, it is important to visit a doctor right away for an accurate diagnosis. A doctor will typically start by performing a physical exam of the lump and the surrounding breast tissue. A healthcare professional may also order the following imaging tests.

1. Mammogram

Mammograms are safe and relatively easy to use. During the mammogram, a technician will take low-dose X-rays of the patient’s breasts. The images created show even the smallest lumps or changes in the breast. The radiologist will then look at the images to check for any abnormalities that could signal cancer. If the mammogram results are suspicious, the patient may be asked to have additional X-rays called a diagnostic mammogram.

2. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

This imaging test is used to detect any changes in structure or size of the lump. An MRI can supplement the results of a mammogram or provide a clearer image of a suspicious lump.

3. Ultrasound

An ultrasound uses sound waves in order to create an image of the breast tissue. This test is often used to differentiate between a solid mass and a fluid-filled cyst and to diagnose a lump.

4. Biopsy

A biopsy is the best way to confirm a diagnosis of cancer. During a biopsy, a doctor takes a sample of the lump and examines it under a microscope. This can help them determine whether the lump is benign or malignant.

Depending on the results of these tests, the doctor may diagnose the lump as either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

The primary purpose of diagnosing Breast Lumps is to identify an issue as soon as possible and rule out cancer. Early detection and diagnosis are the most important steps in achieving a successful treatment outcome.

Different treatments for Breast Lumps

When a patient has a Breast Lump, it can be treated in different ways depending on what type of lump it is. Following are some of the common treatment options a patient can count on.

1. Cryosurgery

In this type of treatment, the lump is frozen using liquid nitrogen. This treatment can be used to treat both benign and cancerous lumps.

2. Radiation therapy

In some cases, radiation therapy may be used to treat cancerous BL. It is done by using external beam radiation or internal radiation through a radioactive source.

3. Hormone therapy

This type of treatment is used for lumps that are caused by an imbalance in hormones. It is done either through medication or lifestyle changes.

4. Chemotherapy

It is a type of treatment used most often for cancerous BL. The goal of chemotherapy is to eliminate cancer cells. It is typically used when a lump is too large to remove surgically, or cancer has spread beyond the breast. Chemotherapy may be administered intravenously or orally. Different chemotherapy drugs work in different ways to kill cancer cells, and the drugs and doses used vary depending on a person's individual situation.

5. Lumpectomy

It is a type of surgery that involves removing the lump and a small amount of surrounding tissue. This procedure may be recommended if the lump is cancerous.

6. Laser surgery

It is a type of treatment option used to remove or reduce the size of Breast Lumps. This procedure is most often used to treat benign lumps or cancerous lumps that have not yet spread.

Prevention of Breast Lumps

There are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of developing Breast Lumps.

  • Regular self-exams: Doing monthly self-exams can help detect any changes in your breasts.

  • Healthy diet: Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of the formation of Breast Lumps.

  • Exercise: Exercise helps to keep your body healthy and can reduce the odds.

  • Limit alcohol: Drinking excessive alcohol can put you at a higher risk of developing lumps.

  • Avoid smoking: Smoking makes you vulnerable to the formation of lumps in the breasts.

  • Limit hormone therapy: Long-term hormone therapy can lead to Breast Lumps.

  • Regular mammograms: Getting regular mammograms is one of the best methods of detecting Breast Lumps before they become serious.

  • Get adequate rest: Lack of sleep can weaken your immune system and make your body more vulnerable to illness and disease. Getting enough rest can lessen your risk of such lumps.

Self-exam for Breast Lumps

It is vital to self-check for Breast Lumps from time to time to keep the risks at bay. You can perform the following steps for self-examination.

1. Look for visual changes

Stand in front of a mirror with your arms raised above your head. Look for any changes in your breasts' shape and size.

2. Feel for texture changes

Gently palpate each breast separately with the pads of your fingers with circular motions. Start at the nipple and move outward in a spiral pattern until you have covered the entire area. Check for any lumps or thickening in the breast or underarm.

3. Note any pain or tenderness

While doing your self-exam, be sure to note any areas of tenderness or pain. If you notice any changes, lumps, pain, or tenderness during your self-exam, be sure to report them to your doctor as soon as possible.

Frequently asked questions

Listed below are the questions along with their answers regarding Breast Lumps.

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Can men develop Breast Lumps?

Yes, men can develop Breast Lumps, although this is rare. BL in men can be caused by cancer or benign growths.

Are Breast Lumps always Cancerous?

No, Breast Lumps are not always cancer. The most common cause of a Breast Lump is a benign or non-cancerous growth, an infection, cyst, fibroadenoma, or an enlargement of the breast due to hormones.

Will lumps go away on their own?

In some cases, Breast Lumps will go away on their own without any treatment. However, it's important to see a doctor for any lumps that appear in the breast to determine whether or not it's something serious. A doctor can recommend tests to determine the cause of the lump and the best course of treatment.

References

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.

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