Lumps, Bumps, and Masses - Oh My.

Sep 02, 2020
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Early detection is extremely important. During your self-breast exams, you might find a lump or mass that may or may not be cancer. Here are a few things to keep in mind. Hello warriors! We hope this blog finds you happy and well.

Lumps, Bumps, and Masses - Oh My

Early detection is extremely important. During your self-breast exams, you might find a lump or mass that may or may not be cancer. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Hello warriors! We hope this blog finds you happy and well. We've talked about the importance of early detection in almost every blog, eblast, and social media post we've ever made. We can't stress enough just how important they are. With our last few blogs discussing the realities of breast cancer appearing in younger generations more often than many people realize, self-exams continue to become more and more important. When you're young, your breast tissue is denser and harder to penetrate and locate anything out of the ordinary in a mammogram. This makes your self-exams so important. You know when something doesn't feel right on your body or has seemed to appear overnight, and you will know and notice better than anyone else. Bringing these changes to your doctor's attention is crucial, but sometimes these aren't always lumps that are connected to cancer. It is so easy to get wrapped up and scared, constantly asking yourself "is this cancer, or is this something else?". This is why it is so important to understand what the different lumps and masses are that could appear inside and around your breast. 

First of all, you need to know a little bit more about the breast tissue and the breast itself. The breast tissue is made up of adipose (fat) tissue, lobules, and ducts. There is a chain of lymph nodes known as the intramammary lymph nodes that run within the breast tissue as well. There are many benign masses like cysts, fibroadenomas, abscesses, and fat necrosis that occurs in the breast. Some should be removed by a breast surgeon and some are fine to let be as long as they don't grow or become painful - always make that decision with a trained surgeon. The density of your breast tissue can also affect how these lumps are to be felt or palpitated. As you age, your breast tissue becomes replaced with fatty tissue that is not as dense, making visualizing these abnormalities on mammograms easier. Some benign masses can increase your risk for breast cancer so even though they are benign, it;s important to notify your provider of any changes. When in doubt, get it checked out! 

[Breast cancer lumps]

Let's start with the more dangerous lumps and bumps on this list before we talk about the more benign things you might be feeling. According to Stony Brook Cancer Center, most of the breast lumps you'll be feeling will be benign, won't be cancerous, and most won't have to be removed. If they are, this won't affect the breast's natural function. 

The early signs of breast cancer are different for every woman. According to the Susan G. Komen foundation, the most common warning signs of cancer in its earliest stages are nipple discharge, a change in how your nipple looks or feels, or a change in how your breast looks or feels. If you have these symptoms, please notify your doctor. 

Breasts themselves have a lumpy texture. Not every unique lump that you feel is a tumor or lump that needs attention, but a part of your natural breast makeup. The lumps that should catch your attention are those that feel different from the rest of your breast tissue, ones that feel hard, and ones that have suddenly appeared. 

According to Stony Brook Cancer Center, these lumps or thickenings will appear most often in the top part of the outer breast and into the armpit. The tissue is thicker there than anywhere else on your breast. According to VeryWellHealth, some other warning signs include these hard bumps not moving during your self-examination and that your breast might feel like it has a very pebbly surface. There are a few precancerous lumps that also need strict attention and should be removed right away. 

  • Intraductal Papillomas. These often cause the nipple discharge that we've mentioned because they are tumors that begin growing in the milk ducts. They are usually benign but are associated enough with an increased risk that they need to be checked out and removed. 
  • Atypical Lobular or Ductal Hyperplasia. These lumps are also not cancerous, but they do have the chance of becoming cancerous and should be removed right away. 
  • Phyllodes Tumors. These tumors are known to be uncommon but what makes them dangerous is the fact that they can be either benign or malignant. 

[Benign lumps and masses]

There are many different types of benign masses that you might come across in your lifetime. As we've mentioned, many of them are not dangerous and you might not have to have them removed at all. You should still be aware of what you're feeling. 

  • Cysts. Breast cysts are sacs filled with fluid inside of the breast tissue. They are very common in women nearing or in menopause but they can appear at any age. They feel almost like a water balloon inside the breast; smooth and round and with a soft give when you push on them. They can appear anywhere in the breast, and they can sometimes move - or not. They can be mistaken for breast cancer because they can change the size and they can become painful or tender. These changes and pain happen close to your period starting. Cysts are rarely linked to breast cancer. 
  • Fibroadenomas. These lumps are found in women generally between the ages of 18 and 30. According to Johns Hopkins, they are a painless lump that feels rubbery and moves around very freely when pushed on by your fingers. They can vary in size and can also be found anywhere in the breast. They are solid lumps of fibrous and glandular tissue and are usually not tender or painful when touched or moved. 
  • Fat Necrosis. This condition, according to Johns Hopkins, is when painless, round, firm lumps appear in the breast from fatty tissue that has been damaged or is disintegrating. This happens to women who have received damage to their breasts or who have very large breasts. They are not cancerous lumps and they do not increase the risk of cancer. 

Knowing your breasts and the lumps and bumps inside them are very important. Being educated on what you're feeling can calm your fears and worries, and help you to action rather than panic. If you have any questions or concerns, never hesitate to reach out. We would rather look and find something benign than being kept in the dark about something serious.

Did you know we will donate $1 for every unit of Botox administered to breast cancer patients and research? We are partnering with various organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Hope Lodge and *soon* Share Our Suzy Lowcountry to give back to the breast cancer community. Be well out there, we know that you're fighting hard. You are not alone in this, and you never will be!