What are Breast Lumps?

Breast lumps refer to the nodularity that is felt in the breast and is a very common problem experienced by many women. Breast lumps can also be referred to as localised swelling, protuberance, bulge, or bump in the breast that feels different from the breast tissue around it.

What are Breast Lumps?

Breast lumps may display the following characteristic features:

  • It may be associated with pain that is referred as mastalgia. It can be either cyclical or non-cyclical and usually occurs due to the involvement of muscular structure and nerve endings.
  • Lumps which are in the upper and middle quadrants are usually noticed earlier than other breast lumps in the inferior and central half.
  • These breast lumps usually enlarge during premenstrual phase
  • Breast lumps fluctuate in size depending on the menstrual cycle.
  • They can either be single or multiple and are characterised by sudden onset.
  • On examination, diffuse nodularity is often found in upper and outer quadrants of breasts
  • Focal nodularity is seen in patients with malignant and cancerous conditions.
  • Some patients may come with the complaint of pain and discharge which becomes more on menstruation. The pain can be felt on the arm too
  • Either one or both breasts can develop lumps simultaneously.

9 Causes of Breast Lumps

  1. Cysts

    Breast lump can also be caused due to cysts. Cysts are tissue pockets filled with fluid, air or other substances. Cysts can develop in any body part but are very common in the breasts. It can be diagnosed by fluctuation test of the breast in this swelling is held in one hand and with other hand centres of the lump is pressed and if it displaces then it's a cyst. It can be blood tinged and present with a lot of pain or no pain at all. On cytological examination of the aspirated fluid, no malignant cells are seen hence it is not considered as malignant or cancerous breast lump.

  2. Fibroadenoma

    Fibroadenomas are noncancerous or benign breast tumours that generally occur in younger women. There are usually two types of Fibroadenoma:-

    • Pericanalicular: Pericanalicular edemas consist of fibrous tissue surrounding a fee small tubular few glands.
    • Intracanalicular: Intracanalicular oedemas contain more glands which become stretched into elongated spidery shapes and indented.

    Both these conditions occur in young girls of age between 15 and 30 years whereas they are less frequently seen in middle age women. These can occur anywhere in the breast but mostly lower half is more prone to fibroadenoma. These are mainly painless breast lumps that grow slowly.

    It is also referred as mousy breast or floating tumour as it slips from the grip of the examiner. The tumour may cause thinning of the overlying skin and breast veins may cause prominence of these veins and can lead to breast lymph node enlargement.

  3. Cystosarcoma Phylloides

    It is also called as serocystic disease of Brodie and is actually a giant form of fibroadenoma which occurs in women over 40 years and is major swelling and there occurs serous discharge from nipple

  4. Duct Papilloma

    This breast lump occurs in the case of major ductal involvement and in people above 30 years. Women with duct papilloma also complain of bloody discharge from nipple and it is actually a premalignant condition and can also lead to enlargement of axillary lymph nodes.

  5. Lipoma

    A lipoma is a harmless deposit of fat under the skin which is typically found on the neck, back, or shoulders. A lipoma feels soft and isn't painful, making it easier to diagnose than other skin problems. Lipomas are rarely harmful, but a dermatologist can remove them if they bother you.

  6. Mastitis

    It refers to breast inflammation or swelling due to some underlying anomaly or in breastfeeding mothers.

  7. Lymphadenitis

    Breast lump as a result of Lymphadenitis refers to enlargement of lymph nodes of the breast regions which include apical, central, axillary, inferior and superior.

  8. Breast Carcinoma

    Cancerous breast lump is well palpable with a flat hand and can be diagnosed at an early stage. It is usually painless and stony hard. It has irregular surface and margins and is seen in association with deeper structures.

  9. Breast Abscess

    Breast lump can also be caused due to breast abscess. A painful collection of pus that forms under the skin of the breast, usually as a result of a bacterial infection and rarely fungal or other pathology.

Treatment of Breast Lumps

Medication Treatment for Breast Lump

Medications help treat the pain associated with breast lump. Medication like NSAIDS can often help relieve breast pain caused due to lumps in breast.

Some of the commonly used medicines in the treatment of pain are paracetamols and antibiotics are prescribed to treat any bacterial infections that may have caused the breast lump to develop and hence help to reduce the progression of the infection further.

Medications like Bromocriptine, danazol and Tomoxifen are combinations of drugs used for the treatment of breast carcinoma and other anomalies.

Drainage & Aspiration to Treat Breast Lump

A needle aspiration may be done to drain away any serous or purulent fluid or pus within the breast lump. Local anaesthesia will be used to numb the area being treated so you don't feel any pain while this is carried out.

Surgery to Remove Breast Lump

Occasionally, surgery may be carried out to remove the breast lump. This will normally be done under general anaesthesia. Lumpectomy is the surgery that is required to remove benign breast lumps that maybe growing in size. Some of the benign breast lumps that need to be surgically removed include intraductal papillomas, fibroadenomas, fat necrosis, and breast cysts.

Fibroadenoma is removed as they can be difficult to distinguish from cancer.

All the samples obtained including removed breast lump sample or drained fluid is sent to a lab for further investigations for checking any underlying pathology or to avoid any future complications.

Prevention of Breast Lumps:

It is not possible to prevent breast lumps but timely diagnosis can help prevent future complications.

  1. Pay Attention to Diet: Simple measures to prevent breast lump which can be followed daily and even at home without guidance includes reducing the amount of saturated fat in your diet.

  2. Choose Appropriate Bra: Wearing a well-fitting bra to support your breasts may help in reducing pain. Avoiding any pushup bras or underwire ones can be helpful to give good support to your breasts.

  3. Checking Your Breasts: These include three finger examination and checking for the following signs:

    • Looking in a mirror, check the size, shape, and colour and look for visible swellings or lumps.
    • An area of thickened tissue.
    • Nipple discharge, which may contain blood or water or any pus.
    • A change in the size or shape of your breasts way too much.
    • Dimpling on the skin of your breasts in any side.
    • A rash on your nipples.
    • A change in your nipple's appearance – for example, becoming sunken into your breast
    • Persistent pain in your breasts or armpits and a lump or swelling in your armpits

    In case you observe any such signs, seek medical attention for diagnosis and treatment. In most of the cases, breast lumps are benign and can be treated easily.

  4. Regular Medical Check Up

  5. Speak to Your Doctor: Informing the doctor and consulting in the case of any abnormal finding in the body.

  6. Diagnostic Tests- These include a various technology based test that is ultrasonogram or mammography or ultrasound or in cases of extreme progressed disease MRI or PET Scan.

Also Read:

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: September 21, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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