Breast lumps are a concerning issue for women. Breast lumps are more common during the reproductive years and most of these lumps are non-cancerous. However, all lumps require proper examination by a medical professional. This article will discuss the different types of breast lumps and what are the ways to approach treatment for a breast lump.

How to identify a Breast Lump?

Most women are aware of breast self-examination. There has been a lot of speculation as to whether this is useful in identifying breast cancer, however, medical professionals still advise their patients to routinely examine their breasts for lumps.

  • Ideally, women should stand in front of a mirror and look at the shape and size of their breasts. Changes in shape, dimpling or excess wrinkling should be consulted with a doctor.
  • Raise your arms while looking in the mirror and notice if there are any changes when standing in this position.
  • After that gently palpate each breast, starting from the inside to the outside and finally ending up in the armpit. This should be able to give you an idea of any lumps present.
  • Repeat the previous step while lying down.

This is a simple and universal way in which a woman can self-assess any breast lumps. In addition to this, nipple inversions, retractions, swelling or discharges should also be mentioned at a medical visit. Women should do this examination once every month.

Can a Cancerous Breast Lump be identified on self-examination?

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The simple answer to is NO. Any lump that is felt requires a confirmatory test to rule out cancer. While cancerous lumps might have a distinct texture when compared to non-cancerous lumps, it is best to show any lump you feel to a gynecologist.

Breast cysts, infection, fat collection and fibrous changes are all forms of non-cancerous lumps in the breast.

  • One of the most common types of breast lumps in women during their reproductive years is the adenoma. These are solid, rubbery and firm masses that appear in the breast. Some of them are painful. Most of them can be easily moved within the breast. They are more evident closer to menses and may subside after menstruation is complete. The breast can increase in size during pregnancy and shrink after menopause.
  • Lumps are also common during breastfeeding. Infection to the ducts, inflammation of the glands in the breast or increased milk production is all possible causes for breast lumps during breastfeeding. Pain, redness, and swelling require medical attention. Other simple lumps can be treated at home. All this subsides once breastfeeding is stopped.
  • Cysts and infections can cause painful lumps in the breast. There can be swelling, tenderness and also the area may appear red and warm. These can increase in size over the course of a few days and can cause a change of the breast shape if they are large enough.
  • Lipoma, which is basically a dense collection of fat, can also be present in the breast. It is painless and easily movable within the breast.

Most of the breast lumps mentioned above are non-cancerous. There is no way to distinguish them directly from a cancerous breast lump growth unless a biopsy is conducted.

A cancerous breast lump is more common in older women, however, breast cancer can occur at any age. Cancerous lumps feel firm and hard. They may feel as though they are attached to the skin above and the breast tissue underneath. Some forms of cancer may have inflammation of the skin above, nipple discharge and some pain. Most tumors are not painful initially. As they grow in size and push against other tissue they can cause pain.

Is a breast lump the only way to identify breast cancer?

Since a breast lump has several possibilities, there are other symptoms and signs that you can watch out for. One that was mentioned a little while ago was nipple discharge. While a discharge can be due to a non-cancerous growth in the milk duct or dilation of milk ducts, the discharge shouldn’t be taken lightly (unless you are breastfeeding). In some forms of cancer, there might be a bloody discharge from the nipples.

Observe the skin texture of your breasts as well as breast color changes. A scaly rash that might appear to be an allergy, can in some cases indicate cancer. Redness is a sign of inflammation which is present in some forms of cancer. Dimpling, puckering or visible swelling can also occur as a consequence of cancer. Rashes, peeling of the skin on the breast or around the nipples should also be observed. The skin on the nipple can become thick or cracked during cancer. Nipple inversions have also be identified as a symptom of cancer.

Finally assessing for a lump might lead you to find lumps in your armpit, collarbone or neck. These lumps might indicate underlying cancer that might have originated in the breast. These are usually the swelling up of lymph nodes in the presence of cancer. It is advisable to visit your doctor if you observe lymph nodes that are persistently swollen.

Are there any risk factors for breast cancer due to lumps?

As with any type of cancer following an unhealthy lifestyle, which includes eating food with low nutritional value, smoking, consuming excessive alcohol and leading a sedentary lifestyle all increase your general cancer risk. Some other factors include:

  • Inherited gene mutations (widely known are the BRCA1 and BRCA2)
  • Previous abnormal breast biopsies
  • Having a close family member who has breast cancer
  • Increased age

These are just risk factors. A woman can have all this and also not get cancer during her lifetime.

How are breast lumps treated?

Any lumps that are identified during self-examination or during a doctor’s visit should undergo a mammogram. This is an X-ray evaluation of the breast that helps to identify consistencies of breast lumps. When a mammogram cannot determine if the lump is cancerous or not, a biopsy is usually conducted.

Based on the findings of these diagnostic lumps treatment is suggested. A small cyst or fibrous lump is only observed for any changes it may undergo. Infections or abscesses (collection of pus) is usually drained. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to treat the infection. If cancer is identified, it will have to be staged to determine the course of therapy. Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are used in combination to treat breast cancer.

Is there any way to treat breast lumps naturally?

Any breast lump that you may incidentally find should be shown to your doctor. Attempting “home remedies” to reduce them or generally wishing them away will only delay treatment.

Most lumps during your reproductive years are noncancerous. The discomfort experienced with breast lumps that appear before your period or lumps that are present during breastfeeding can be treated at home.

  • Opt for a healthy lifestyle: This is one of the best ways to curtail any type of health condition. Eat foods with anti-inflammatory properties. This includes fresh fruits, oats, veggies, nuts, and fish high in omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Cut down on alcohol and quit smoking.
  • Wear a supportive bra: Sometimes an ill-fitting bra can cause breast pain. A sports bra might help pain before menses.
  • Follow some form of exercise regime: Yes, the hormones, sweat, and rise in metabolism during workouts help your breasts as well.
  • Use a warm compress if you find lumps before your periods or during breastfeeding. This help to dilate clogged glands and ducts. Feeding more often is another way to reduce engorgement and blockages.
  • Talk to your doctor about painkillers and oral contraceptives. Medications that alter your hormones like oral contraceptives reduce breast tenderness, heavy bleeding, and menstrual cramps. Any medication should be taken with a prescription from your primary care physician.

To tackle any medical malady it is best to be well informed about the cause and effect of it. Rather than panicking and delaying medical treatment, go visit your doctor whenever you find a lump in your breast. Even if the lump was there yesterday and gone today, a professional might be able to source it out and find others if present. Practice self-examination and follow a healthy lifestyle.

This article is originally published on Sheroes