During your breast self-observation, you may find a lump. Although it is very important to consult a doctor and always assess the changes observed, benign (non-cancerous) conditions can also cause lumps to appear in the breast tissue.
So, what can these lumps be, and what should you do about them? Find out more.
Why should breast self-examination be done regularly?
The breast is made up of various tissues, such as fat cells, milk-producing lobules, fibrous support tissue and ducts that carry milk to the nipple. It is not always easy to distinguish between normal breast tissue, a benign lump, and a mass that could be suspicious.
This is why practising regular breast self-eobservation is recommended in order to learn to distinguish between the normal appearance of your breasts, the recurrent and temporary changes that can be explained (for example, those related to your menstrual cycle), and new and persistent changes that cannot be explained. In the case of the latter, it is important to always consult a doctor to find the cause!
What can cause you to feel a lump in your breast?
Certain changes in the breasts can appear during the menstrual cycle, such as fluctuations in size, tenderness, and sometimes even the appearance of small lumps. These fluctuations can be normal and are often due to hormonal variations that occur from puberty until menopause. Regular breast self-eobservation will teach you to recognize these recurring changes.
This said, it is important to remember that any lump in the breast tissue can be a possible sign of cancer, even if there are other non-cancerous causes, such as:
- Fibroadenomas: masses of up to 5 cm in size made up of different types of tissue;
- Cysts: benign tumours containing fluid;
- Fibrocystic changes: appearance of more or less sensitive lumps or bumps that can fluctuate with the menstrual cycle; and
- Non-cancerous tumours; for example, phyllodes tumours in the connective or glandular tissues of the breast, or intraductal papilloma. There are also many others!
Despite the chance that the lump it is benign, you should always consult a doctor as soon as you have any doubts, so that you can be sure that there is no need to worry.
What to do when you have found a new and persistent lump in your breast?
The first step in the process of diagnosing this lump is to see a doctor to have a clinical breast exam done. If you do not have a doctor, the Foundation invites you to contact us at 1 855 561-PINK so that a member of our team can guide you confidentially.
This thorough examination consists of scrutinizing the shape of the breast, the appearance of the skin and nipple, and palpating each breast, the nipples and the armpits. The doctor may also ask questions, including personal history, family history and lifestyle habits to assess your personal risk level.
If during the examination the doctor finds a lump or sign that they consider suspicious, they may prescribe further examinations, such as a mammogram and/or ultrasound.
More specifically, a mammogram is an X-ray of the breasts that can detect lumps or suspicious areas. An ultrasound will determine whether the mass is liquid or solid.
Following the mammogram or ultrasound, the doctor may deem it necessary to perform a biopsy. It is important to note that only a biopsy, in which cells are removed from the suspect area for analysis under a microscope, can confirm the diagnosis of cancer beyond any doubt. However, just because you are prescribed a biopsy does not mean that you necessarily have breast cancer. The purpose of this examination is to make a final diagnosis.
Waiting for the diagnosis
It can take a long time to get the results of the medical exams, and it is normal to feel anxious. Remember to call us at 1 855 561-PINK if you have any doubts or questions about breast cancer, before, during and after diagnosis and treatment.