"I've found a lump in my breast."

Don't panic. Eighty percent of all breast lumps are benign (non-cancerous).

There are several common causes of breast lumps:

  • Benign breast changes
  • Breast infection or injury
  • Medicines that can cause lump or breast pain
  • Breast cancer

What are the most common types of benign lumps?

The most common benign lumps are fibrocystic changes, breast cysts, and fibroadenomas. Most women have a certain degree of fibrocystic changes. These are often described as benign, tiny, fluid-filled sacs that might feel like lumps. They might be hard or rubbery, and often fluctuate with the menstrual cycle. A woman can also have a single breast lump that might be large or small. Again, this is a fluid- filled sac that might fluctuate with the menstrual cycle. A fibroadenoma is another benign lump and is the most common tumor found in the female breast. These most often occur in women who are in their reproductive years.

Can men have breast lumps?

Yes. Men can have tender breast enlargement, often with a lump beneath the nipple. Sometimes this is in one breast, often in both. This benign finding is called gynecomastia. Gynecomastia can also occur after certain types of medicines are prescribed.

Can a breast lump indicate an infection?

Possibly. Sometimes breast infections are first noticed as a painful lump, with or without redness.

What should I do if I find a lump?

A lump in the premenopausal woman might be monitored for one to two months to see if it changes, and is related to hormone fluctuations and the menstrual period. Any unexplained breast lump that persists should be checked by your health care provider. Call and make an appointment.

What will happen at the appointment?

  • A detailed health history will be taken and a thorough breast exam will be conducted.
  • Breast imaging (mammogram or ultrasound) will be performed if your previous studies are not current.
  • You might be scheduled for other diagnostics studies such as:
    • A needle aspiration — This is a process during which a sample of cells are removed for evaluation.
    • A core biopsy — During this procedure, a very small sample of the lump is removed for evaluation.
    • An excisional biopsy — This is the surgical removal of the entire mass.
  • You might return to the doctor for another evaluation in a few weeks.

What can I do for myself to continue good breast health?

  • Have a monthly self breast examination
  • Have a baseline mammogram by the age of 40, and then as recommended by your health care provider
  • Have regular breast examinations by your health care provider
  • Keep track of your family health history

Additional breast screening guidelines by the American Cancer Society

If you are between the ages of 20 and 40, you should:
  • Do a breast self-exam once a month
  • Have a breast physical examination by your health care provider every three years
If you are age 40 or older, you should:
  • Do a breast self-exam once a month
  • Have a breast physical examination by your health care provider once a year
  • Have a mammogram once a year

© Copyright 1995-2011 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 6/20/2011...#6906