You notice that something is different with your breast, and you find a lump. Now what?
If you notice any breast changes, call your doctor right away to get it checked, but don’t panic. Most breast lumps are benign, which means they’re not cancer. Benign breast lumps usually have smooth edges and can be moved slightly when you push against them. They are often found in both breasts.
There are several common causes, including normal changes in breast tissue, breast infections, or injury.
Breast tissue changes during a woman’s entire life. It is sensitive to changing hormone levels during the menstrual cycle.
What Should I Do If I Find a Breast Lump?
See your doctor if you discover any new breast changes, such as:
- An area that’s clearly different from any other area on either breast
- A lump or thickened area in or near the breast or underarm that lasts through your menstrual cycle
- A change in breast size, shape, or contour
- A mass or lump. It could be as small as a pea or feel like a marble under your skin.
- A change in how the skin on your breast or nipple looks or feels. It could be dimpled, puckered, scaly, or inflamed.
- Clear or bloody fluid coming out of the nipple
- Red skin on your breast or nipple
What Will Happen at My Appointment?
The doctor will ask questions about your health history. They’ll perform a breast exam to feel for lumps or other changes in the breast tissue and under your arms.
If there’s fluid coming out of your nipple, the doctor may order blood tests to check hormone levels and collect a sample to check for abnormal cells.
They may also do a mammogram or ultrasound to see if the lump is solid or filled with fluid.
Your doctor may order a test called a biopsy. They’ll take a tiny sample of the lump with a needle or small cut and send it to a lab.
How Do I Keep My Breasts Healthy?
Your doctor can help you decide the right time to start and how often to get them. The American Cancer Society recommends women ages 45 to 54 at average risk for breast cancer get yearly mammograms. Women 55 and older can switch to getting a mammogram every other year or continue with the yearly screening tests. Women ages 40 to 44 can start a yearly mammogram.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening mammograms every other year for women ages 50-74.
If you have a high risk for breast cancer, get a mammogram every year. You may start getting them at a younger age, too. You may also get ultrasound screenings, too. Breast MRI screening tests, in addition to mammogram, is sometimes used in certain women with a high risk of breast cancer. Talk with your doctor to decide what’s best for you.