Lump in between breasts

A few weeks later, Rebecca was seen and sent for a biopsy, an MRI scan and a mammogram – going to Tenerife on a family holiday for a week while awaiting the results.

Two days after returning home, Rebecca and Andrew went to the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, where they were told she had cancer.

6 The pair can no longer have kids after Rebecca was told it was too risky to delay treatment for her next menstrual cycle so she could freeze her eggsCredit: PA Real Life

Rebecca said: “When doctors said it was stage 3, aggressive breast cancer, all I could think of was ‘who’s going to look after our girl’.

“We had an eight month old daughter who needed her mum. I wasn’t thinking ‘I’m going to die’- it was all about her.”

Medics said Rebecca would need chemotherapy, radiotherapy and recommended a mastectomy, in case the cancer came back.

Immediately, she decided to have both breasts removed and reconstructed to reduce any risk of the cancer returning.

But medics had more news for the high school sweethearts – it would be too risky to wait for another menstrual cycle for Rebecca to freeze her eggs, meaning the pair couldn’t have any more children.

She said: “We hadn’t talked about having more kids, but what I was really worried about was the changes in the way I’d look.

“I felt like I was losing my femininity, as my hair was falling out and my breasts were going to be removed. It felt so scary.”

6 Rebecca said keeping fit and exercising helped distract her from the treatmentCredit: PA Real Life

Contents

REMARKABLE FINDING

Women treated for early stage breast cancer live ‘LONGER than those who never get the disease’

‘CRITICAL WE SPOT THIS’

Breast cancer drugs taken by thousands of women stop working because tumours ‘outsmart’ them

KNOW YOUR LEMONS

Viral photo of 12 lemons shows signs of breast cancer EVERYONE should know

‘I DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS A SIGN’

Breast cancer patient discovers she has the disease after spotting surprising sign on Facebook

LONELINESS KILLS

Lonely breast cancer sufferers ‘more likely to die than those with busy social lives’

By June 2013, Rebecca had started four months of chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy.

She added: “During treatment, I had to look at my daughter and deal with not being able to pick her up, as I was unable to lift after surgery and I was weak from chemo.”

But exercise has been a huge part of Rebecca’s recovery.

She kept going to the gym, played netball and competed in 10k races during her treatment.

“I continued to exercise during my chemotherapy treatment and found it helped to take my mind off things and keep me fit,” she said.

“There were times when I wasn’t well enough, but I did as much as I could.

“My friends and I also took part in a 10k race for the cancer charity Macmillan during my chemotherapy. I’d signed up before I was diagnosed and I was determined to still do it.”

6 She ran a 10km Macmillan charity run while she was undergoing treatmentCredit: Derek George Photography/PA Real Life

Since having the double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, which kept her boobs at a size 34B, Rebecca has been told she is in remission.

She now wants other women to make sure they check their breasts.

She said “I never thought that after giving birth to my beautiful daughter, I would find myself back at the hospital and this time with cancer. But I am just so happy that we had Tavia.

“I want to tell other women to make sure they check their breasts and know their bodies, too.”

Rebecca ran the Virgin Money London Marathon for Macmillan Cancer Support last year to raise money to help thousands of people living with cancer.

For more information about how to sign up for a Macmillan running event, visit macmillan.org.uk

A 27-year-old mom from Indiana died after her breast cancer was misdiagnosed—and her family is spreading the word so young women everywhere take a closer look at their own health.

Just months after her daughter, Kilana was born, Heather found a lump in her breast and went to her doctor, who told her it was a clogged milk duct and instructed her to take Tylenol. But months went by, and she still felt awful, BuzzFeed reports. She told her physician she had a family history of breast cancer, but her doctor dismissed her worries, saying she was “young and healthy” and had nothing to worry about.

All that Tylenol ended up damaging her liver, and she went to the doctor again. This time, she discovered she had stage 4 breast cancer. Eventually, it spread to her liver, and she died in January at age 27.

Now, Heather’s family is speaking up so that people in their twenties don’t think they’re invincible when it comes to cancer. “My desire is that everyone realize that age and gender mean nothing,” her mother, Tina Black, told BuzzFeed. “If you find a lump don’t let your doctor tell you it’s nothing without testing.”

A 2013 study found that more and more women ages 25 to 39 have been diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. To top it off, young women’s cancer tends to be more aggressive—and more deadly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend you have a good idea of how your breasts normally look and feel, and talk to your doctor if you see changes or if have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

Finding a lump in your breast can be extremely nerve-wracking. If you find a moveable lump in your breast while breastfeeding, the lump may be a galactocele – a cyst in your breast that is filled with milk. Here is what you need to know about galactoceles.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click through and make a purchase, I’ll be compensated at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I love! More info here.

What is a galactocele?

A galactocele is a cyst in the breast that is filled with milk. They occur (pretty rarely) in women who are pregnant, lactating, or have recently been lactating.

How can I tell if I have one? Galactocele vs plugged duct

If you are lactating and you notice a smooth, moveable lump in your breast, you might have a galactocele. They are sometimes mistaken for clogged ducts or for breast cancer (since both of these also have lumps as the first symptom).

They may or may not be painful, and they often change size (sometimes filling up, sometimes getting smaller). The pain is caused by the surrounding tissue being stretched.

One difference between a galactocele and a clogged duct is that galactoceles are often much larger. They can be from 1 to 6 cm in diameter. A golf ball sized lump in your breast is far more likely to be a galactocele than a clogged milk duct.

Galactoceles have to be diagnosed by a doctor. Because galactoceles and breast cancer both present with smooth and moveable lumps, doctors will generally refer women who have them for a breast cancer screening. In most cases, you will get an ultrasound and a biopsy to evaluate the lump; however, sometimes a mammogram is the first step.

One important thing to note is that galactoceles are not dangerous and have no relationship to breast cancer. The main issue with them (and of course it’s not a small one) is your discomfort.

How is a galactocele treated? Will it go away on its own?

If they aren’t painful, the standard treatment is the same as it is for a cyst: just leaving them alone. If they are painful, they can be drained via fine needle aspiration (though unfortunately, they sometimes fill up again).

Most of the time, your body will reabsorb an untreated galactocele when you are done breastfeeding. If for whatever reason it doesn’t, the milk duct can be removed surgically.

Ibuprofen and warm showers can help treat the pain associated with the them.

Can you have a galactocele in your armpit?

It’s possible for you to have breast tissue in your underarm, and so you can get galactoceles there. Here is a case study of one.

Is there any way that I can prevent it from coming back?

Unfortunately, there is no definitive way to do this. If the milk is aspirated, it can fill right back up again. There are a few things that you can try:

  • Weaning from the affected breast (and continuing to pump from the breast without the galactocele).
  • Taking a lecithin supplement to decrease the stickiness of your milk.
  • Surgical removal of the milk duct (before or after weaning from breastfeeding).
  • Several women stated that their galactocele was significantly reduced when they got the flu and became dehydrated (this obviously isn’t something I would recommend, but you can see if decreasing fluid intake a bit – not to the degree that you become dehydrated – helps keep the size under control)

(I would encourage anyone who thinks that they may have a galactocele to read these first-hand accounts from women who had one, along with this scientific explanation of how they are diagnosed.)

Have you had a galactocele? It would be great if you could comment and tell us about your experience!

References

What does a lump in the left breast mean?

The majority of breast lumps are not cancerous. A person may develop one of the following benign breast lumps:

Fibroadenoma is the most common type of noncancerous tumor that affects the breast.

A fibroadenoma is a tumor made up of glandular and connective tissues. They feel like a small, round marble in the breast.

Fibroadenomas also have the following characteristics:

  • clear-cut borders
  • moveable under the skin
  • firm or rubbery
  • not tender

Fibroadenomas are usually very small, around 2.5 centimeters in diameter. Some are too small to feel, but they will show up on mammograms and ultrasounds. Others can be several inches across.

Fibroadenomas are most common among women who are in their 20s and 30s, and they tend to shrink after menopause.

It is possible to have more than one fibroadenoma. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), having a fibroadenoma can slightly increase a person’s risk of breast cancer.

Not all fibroadenomas require treatment. Some will shrink or even disappear on their own. A doctor will usually recommend removing the fibroadenoma if it grows or causes changes within the breast.

Learn more about breast fibroadenomas here.

Breast cysts

Breast cysts are round sacs of fluid that can develop in breast tissue. Around 25 percent of masses in the breast are cysts, which are benign and do not affect someone’s risk of breast cancer.

Breast cysts mainly affect women in their 40s, but people can develop breast cysts at any age.

Symptoms of breast cysts include:

  • one or more round, movable masses under the breast skin
  • smooth, rubbery texture
  • lumps that are tender or painful to the touch

Doctors use ultrasound tests to diagnose breast cysts. Cysts that contain only fluid do not need treatment unless they are very large or cause discomfort.

If the cyst appears solid or has solid areas on the ultrasound image, the doctor may recommend a biopsy to rule out breast cancer.

Fibrocystic breast changes

Fibrocystic breast changes occur when hormonal changes during menstruation cause lumpiness in one or both breasts.

Fibrocystic breast changes happen over time and over repeated menstrual cycles. They can cause some discomfort, but they do not increase the risk of breast cancer.

Other symptoms of fibrocystic breast changes include:

  • tenderness or pain in the breast
  • pain under the arms
  • green or brown nipple discharge

Fibrocystic breast changes do not require medical treatment. Taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers and using warm compresses can help relieve uncomfortable or painful symptoms.

Although fibrocystic breast changes are often harmless, they can make detecting breast cancer through breast self-examinations more difficult. This is why it is essential for people to get screened for breast cancer regularly.

Learn more about fibrocystic breast changes here.

Intraductal papilloma

An intraductal papilloma is a noncancerous tumor that develops in the milk ducts of the breast. These growths are a common cause of nipple discharge.

People can have one near the nipple, or a cluster of small tumors in the narrow milk ducts farther from the nipple.

Symptoms of intraductal papilloma include:

  • swelling of the breast
  • one or more lumps close to or behind the nipple
  • clear or bloody nipple discharge

Having one intraductal papilloma does not affect a person’s risk of breast cancer, but having several can increase the risk slightly.

Doctors may treat intraductal papillomas by surgically removing the papilloma along with the affected area of the milk duct.

Lipoma

A lipoma is a collection of fat cells. They can develop anywhere on the body. Lipomas usually appear just below the skin, but they can also form inside the mammary glands.

Lipomas are soft, moveable lumps that do not cause pain. A lump is usually the only symptom. Lipomas in the breast do not increase the risk of breast cancer.

Breast infection

Mastitis is an infection in the breast tissue.

A blocked milk duct or bacteria entering the breast can cause a breast infection. This may be more common while breastfeeding.

Symptoms of mastitis include:

  • a lump in the breast that is tender or sore to the touch
  • redness and swelling of the breast
  • pain or sensitivity when touching the affected area
  • a warm or a burning sensation in the affected area

Treatments for mastitis include taking antibiotics and OTC pain relievers. Untreated mastitis can develop into a collection of pus, or an abscess, in the breast tissue. If an abscess forms, a person may need surgery to drain the pus.

Learn more about breast infections here.

Adenosis

Adenosis is a noncancerous breast condition characterized by abnormally large lobules in the breast. Adenosis can cause a lump that feels similar to a cyst or a tumor.

The enlarged lobules can contain calcium deposits, which makes it difficult for a doctor to tell them apart from tumors on a mammogram.

A doctor will use a biopsy to determine if the lump is adenosis or breast cancer. There is some debate around whether or not adenosis increases the risk of developing breast cancer or not.

Biopsies are minimally invasive procedures. Before a biopsy, a medical professional will give the person a local anesthetic. During the procedure, they will use a thin needle to remove a small sample of tissue for laboratory testing.

People who have adenosis do not need treatment, but they can get regular checkups to watch out for warning signs of breast cancer.

Phyllodes tumor

Phyllodes tumors are rare, making up less than 1 percent of all breast tumors. Most are benign, but around 1 in 4 are malignant, or cancerous.

Some phyllodes tumors are borderline, meaning that they fall between benign and malignant.

Phyllodes tumors feel like hard, painless masses. A doctor will usually perform a biopsy to diagnose these tumors because they are difficult to identify using mammograms and ultrasounds.

Surgery is the main treatment for phyllodes tumors. People who have had phyllodes tumors removed will need regular follow-ups and breast exams, as these tumors can return after treatment.

When to Worry About Breast Lumps

Breast Lumps: Telltale Distinctions

Your breasts are made up of fat, nerves, blood vessels, fibrous connective tissue, and glandular tissue, as well as an intricate milk-producing system of lobules (where the milk is made), and ducts (the thin tubes that carry milk to the nipple). This anatomy in and of itself creates a lumpy, uneven terrain.

A breast lump distinguishes itself from this background of normal irregularities. Harmless breast lumps can be solid and unmovable like a dried bean, or there can be a moveable lump in your breast, soft and fluid-filled, rolling between your fingers like a grape. It can be a pea-sized lump, smaller than a pea, or even several inches across, although this larger size is rare.

While the sizes of breast cancer lumps vary from case to case depending on the stage of the disease, what typically differentiates a benign breast lump from a cancerous breast lump is movement. That is, a fluid-filled lump that rolls between the fingers is less likely to be cancer than a hard lump in your breast that is rooted.

This is not to say all benign lumps move and all cancerous lumps don’t. While this is a good rule of thumb, the only way to know for sure is through the wisdom of your doctor and specialized medical tests, such as an ultrasound, a mammogram, or a fine needle aspiration (FNA), in which your doctor uses a tiny needle to extract a bit of the lump for a biopsy, or laboratory examination.

Another rule of thumb has to do with pain. Breast cancer does not usually come with pain, but benign conditions often do, although there are exceptions to this as well.

Not all benign breast lumps will require additional testing. If you find what appears to be a fluid-filled cyst during your menstrual period, your doctor may want to check your breast again at the end of your period to see if the cyst has disappeared. If the cyst goes away, you and your doctor will know your lump was indeed benign and related to the hormonal fluctuations associated with menstruation.

A Variety of Benign Breast Lumps and Conditions

Most benign breast lumps and conditions are directly related to your menstrual cycle, to fluctuations in your hormones and to the fluid buildup that comes with your monthly period. Because of the fluctuations in breast tissue — including any cysts — that occur in response to your hormones, it’s typically good to do a self-exam at the same point every month, such as a few days after the end of your menstrual cycle.

Other benign breast lumps and conditions may be related to plugged milk ducts, infections, or even breast injuries. Here are some of the most common benign breast conditions:

Fibrocystic Changes A general lumpiness that can be described as “ropy” or “granular,” these lumps are the most commonly seen benign breast condition, affecting at least half of all women. Symptoms of fibrocystic change include tender, fibrous, rubbery tissue; a thickening of tissue; or a round, fluid-filled cyst. These changes, related to hormone fluctuation, may increase as you approach middle age and then disappear with menopause.

Sometimes your doctor will recommend limiting salt and caffeine in your diet to ease fluid buildup, though there is limited data that suggests these steps will help. You may also be prescribed hormones, in the form of birth control pills, to help ease particularly troublesome symptoms. Your doctor may also recommend a needle or surgical biopsy to make sure your breast condition is related to fibrocystic change and not cancer.

Cysts Related to fibrocsystic changes, cysts are round or oval sacs, measuring 1 to 2 inches across. They are tender to the touch and filled with fluid. They may come and go with your menstrual period, becoming larger and more tender at the beginning of your period and disappearing at the end.

Your doctor may order an ultrasound or a fine needle aspiration to make sure it’s a cyst and not something else. In very rare cases, when a cyst is particularly large or painful, your doctor may use a needle to withdraw and reduce the fluid inside it. Cysts generally affect women between ages 35 and 50.

Fibroadenoma Occurring in young girls and women in their teens and 20s, fibroadenomas are more common in those who use birth control pills before age 20. This benign tumor ranges in size from microscopic to several inches across. It is movable under the skin, round and hard like a marble, and may be identified by FNA or biopsy, or removal of the lump. If the fibroadenoma shrinks or doesn’t grow over time, and your doctor is sure of the diagnosis, he or she may decide to simply leave it alone.

Fat Necrosis This occurs when fatty breast tissue is damaged by injury to the breast, resulting in the formation of round, firm lumps. It’s more common in women with large breasts, particularly in women who are obese. Your doctor will most likely watch the lump through several menstrual cycles and may decide to remove it surgically. Sometimes the necrosis will produce what is called an oily cyst, which your doctor can drain with a needle.

Nipple Discharge Sometimes women experience nipple discharge with or without a breast lump. The color of nipple discharge related to benign fibrocystic changes can vary from yellow to green. A clear to milky discharge may mean a hormonal malfunction. Green-black discharge could be related to duct ectasia, a narrowing or blockage of the duct. It can even be bloody in appearance, which can, in fact, mean cancer. More than likely though, a red discharge means injury, infection, or a benign tumor.

Your doctor may study the fluid under a microscope to determine its origin, particularly if there is also a mass or lump in your breast.

Mastitis An infection of the milk duct, this condition can create a lumpy, red, and warm breast, accompanied by fever. It occurs most commonly in women who are breast-feeding, but can occur in non-breast-feeding women as well. Treatment involves warm compresses and antibiotics. But because these symptoms are similar to inflammatory breast cancer, if they occur in a non-breast-feeding woman — and especially if they do not go away with compresses and antibiotics — your doctor may want a biopsy.

Other Less Commonly Known Conditions Some medical conditions can also cause breast lumps, including hyperplasia, an overgrowth of cells in the breast ducts or lobules; adenosis, which causes enlarged lobules; intraductal papilloma, a wart-like growth of gland tissue that grows in the duct; and lipoma, which is a benign fatty tumor.

The risk for benign breast conditions increases for women who have never had children and those who have a history of irregular menstrual cycles or a family history of breast cancer.

If You Find a Breast Lump

All breast lumps should be evaluated by a medical professional, who can help you decide how to proceed. Most benign breast conditions are treatable, and some will even go away on their own, but it’s best to let your doctor be the one to tell you that.

Medically reviewed by Harold J. Burstein, MD, PhD

Although breast cancer is the most common cancer found in women, most breast lumps are not cancer. In fact, more than 80 percent of them end up being benign. But can a woman tell if a breast lump is cancer?

While the majority of lumps are benign, experts at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber say it is important for women to speak with their doctor if they notice changes to their breasts.

In general, cancerous breast lumps tend to be more irregular in shape. They may also feel firm or solid, and might be fixed to the tissue in the breast. They are also often painless. However, in a small percentage of women, a painful breast lump turns out to be cancer.

Where are breast cancer lumps usually found?

Lumps can appear anywhere within the breast. The location does not determine whether or not it is a breast cancer.

Do breast cancer lumps move?

Breast lumps typically do not “move” around the breast. However, sometimes a breast lump will be fixed, or stuck, to the chest wall. Most lumps will be movable within the breast tissue on examination.

What about a “hard lump” in the breast?

“Hard lumps” in the breast can be either benign or malignant. The feel of the lump itself is rarely enough to determine if the lump is a cancerous one or not.

Cancer tumors versus cysts and fibroadenomas

Cysts, which are fluid-filled lumps, are common in the breast and are benign. They form when fluid builds up inside breast glands, and tend to be smooth or round. Fibroadenomas, which are benign tumors made up of glandular and connective breast tissue, are usually smooth and firm or rubbery to the touch. Both of these conditions tend to affect younger women; fibroadenomas are most common in women in their 20s and 30s, and cysts are most common in women under 40.

Despite these common descriptions, it is impossible to tell by touch whether a lump is cancer.

  • Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber
  • Ten Myths About Breast Cancer

Always seek medical attention

“The key point is that a woman should seek medical attention for any concerning lumps in her breasts,” says Harold Burstein, MD, PhD, a breast oncologist with the Susan F. Smith Center. “Simple imaging techniques such as a mammogram or breast ultrasound can usually provide reassurance that the breast lump is benign, and if necessary, a breast MRI or biopsy can be used to evaluate whether the lump is cancerous.”

Breast lumps

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if you notice:

  • a lump in your breast or armpit
  • any other unusual changes in your breasts – such as the nipple turning inwards, dimpled skin or bloodstained nipple discharge

Changes in the breasts can be a sign of breast cancer. This is easier to treat if it’s found early.

What happens at your GP appointment

The GP will look at and examine your breasts.

If they’re not sure what’s causing the lump, they’ll refer you to a hospital or breast clinic for further tests.

These tests usually show that a lump isn’t cancer.

What happens at the breast clinic

At the hospital or breast clinic, you may have a:

  • breast examination
  • scan – usually a breast X-ray (mammogram) or ultrasound
  • biopsy – where a needle is inserted into the lump to remove some cells for testing

These tests are often done during the same visit. You’ll usually be told the results on the same day, although biopsy results take longer – you should get them within a week.

Breast Cancer Care has more information about what to expect at a breast clinic appointment.

Treatment for a lump depends on the cause. Most are harmless and may go away on their own without treatment.

Three signs to tell if a breast lump is normal or abnormal

The prospect of finding a lump on your breast is daunting, however getting to know your breasts and understanding which lumps are a sign of abnormality could have a huge impact on your health.

Despite the fact 80 per cent of breast lumps are benign, a 2005 study, reported by ABC, found certain kinds of lumps can reveal your likelihood of developing breast cancer.

Therefore, paying attention to your breasts now and recognising any lumps is important for your future health.

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Below are three things you should look for when examining your breasts, which may help to make clear whether any lumps you find are normal or abnormal.

However, none of this information should substitute that from your doctor and it is important to go straight to your GP if you do feel any kind of lump.

1) Abnormal lumps are hard to the touch

Abnormal breast lumps typically feel solid and do not move around easily under the skin. These abnormal are generally tumours.

It is possible for these tumours to be benign, however any hard lumps on your breasts should be evaluated by a doctor.

Soft lumps such as cysts – smooth, firm, fluid-filled lumps; fibroadenomas, which are firm but move around easily on the breast; as well as tissues, fat and milk ducts and lobules inside breasts are normal and should not usually pose any risk.

Shape Created with Sketch. Breast cancer survivor gets double-mastectomy tattoos

Show all 6 left Created with Sketch. right Created with Sketch. Art helped Ms Black to cope with her treatment. She is pictured here with an Alice in Wonderland ‘Drinke Me’ bottle painted on her head, symbolising the drugs she took but didn’t understand. Lillyan Ling

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Nikki as she waits to be tattooed

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Comedian Nikki Black before being tattooed

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Nikki being tattooed at The Gilded Lily Design

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Ms Black mid-way through her tattoo

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Nikki Black after being tattooed

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Art helped Ms Black to cope with her treatment. She is pictured here with an Alice in Wonderland ‘Drinke Me’ bottle painted on her head, symbolising the drugs she took but didn’t understand. Lillyan Ling Nikki as she waits to be tattooed Comedian Nikki Black before being tattooed Nikki being tattooed at The Gilded Lily Design Ms Black mid-way through her tattoo Nikki Black after being tattooed

2) Abnormal breast lumps are accompanied by other changes

A dangerous breast lump is usually accompanied by physical changes such as suddenly inverted nipples, dimpled breast skin, changes in size or shape.

Nipple discharge that is that is yellow, brown, red or bloody is something to pay attention to especially if it is present in just one breast.

Some lumps appear on their own, with no additional changes to the breast, but should still be investigated by a doctor.

Pain in your breasts, which reappears at the same point in your menstrual cycle each month is not usually a sign of breast cancer.

Also redness or inflammation, especially among women who are breast feeding is more likely to be an infection called mastitis, which should be treated by a doctor, Bustle reports.

3) Abnormal lumps are not usually present in both breasts at the same time

Generally, abnormal lumps are only found in one breast and are not mirrored by a lump in the other.

If you feel a lump in one breast, and then find a lump in the same place on the other breast, you are most likely feeling lumpy tissue.

According to the National Cancer Institute, “If both breasts feel the same, it may be normal. Normal breast tissue can sometimes feel lumpy.”

Ideally women of all ages should checking their breasts every four to six weeks so they can spot any unusual changes quickly and which may save their lives, according to Breast Cancer Care.

This week saw World Cancer Day, a campaign which started in 2000 to promote research, improve treatment and raise awareness of cancer which affects 14.1m people across the world each year

Fibroadenoma

At the breast clinic you’ll have a range of tests. These may include:

  • A mammogram (breast x-ray)
  • An ultrasound scan (using sound waves to produce an image)
  • A core biopsy (using a hollow needle to take a sample of breast tissue to be looked at under a microscope)
  • A fine needle aspiration (FNA) (using a fine needle and syringe to take a sample of cells to be looked at under a microscope)

Fibroadenomas are often easier to identify in younger women. If you’re in your early 20s or younger, your fibroadenoma may be diagnosed with a breast examination and ultrasound only. However, if there’s any uncertainty about the diagnosis, a core biopsy or FNA will be done.

If you’re under 40, you’re more likely to have an ultrasound than a mammogram. Younger women’s breast tissue can be dense which can make the x-ray image less clear so normal changes or benign breast conditions can be harder to identify. However, for some women under 40, mammograms may still be needed to complete the assessment.

You can call our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000 if you’d like more information about any tests you may be having.

6. Treatment and follow-up

In most cases you’ll not need any treatment or follow-up if you have a fibroadenoma. Usually you’ll only be asked to go back to your GP or the breast clinic if it gets bigger or you notice a change.

Most fibroadenomas stay the same size. Some get smaller and some eventually disappear over time. A small number of fibroadenomas get bigger, particularly those in teenage girls. Fibroadenomas can also get bigger during pregnancy and breastfeeding or while taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT), but usually reduce in size again afterwards.

Surgery

Sometimes an operation, called an excision biopsy, is needed to remove a fibroadenoma if it’s a large, complex or juvenile fibroadenoma. You can also ask to have a fibroadenoma removed. This is usually performed under general anaesthetic.

Your surgeon may use dissolvable stitches placed under the skin which will not need to be removed. However, if a non-dissolvable stitch is used, they’ll need to be taken out about a week after surgery. You’ll be given information about looking after the wound before you leave hospital.

Vacuum assisted (VAC/VAB) excision biopsy

You may be offered a vacuum assisted excision biopsy to remove the fibroadenoma. This is a way of removing small fibroadenomas under local anaesthetic, without having an operation under general anaesthetic.

After an injection of local anaesthetic, a small cut is made in the skin. A hollow probe connected to a vacuum device is placed through this. Using an ultrasound as a guide, the fibroadenoma is sucked through the probe by the vacuum into a collecting chamber. The biopsy device is used in this way until all of the fibroadenoma has been removed. This may mean that surgery can be avoided.

The removed tissue is sent to a laboratory and examined under a microscope.

This procedure can cause some bruising and pain for a few days afterwards. Removing a fibroadenoma does not usually affect the shape of the breast, but there may be a slight dent in the breast where it has been removed.

7. Staying breast aware

For most women, having a fibroadenoma does not increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

If you were diagnosed with a complex fibroadenoma, you may be worried that your risk is very slightly increased. However, this does not necessarily mean you’ll develop breast cancer in the future.

It’s important to continue to be breast aware and go back to your GP if you notice any changes in your breasts, regardless of how soon these occur after your diagnosis of a fibroadenoma.

Hello AlexB9 and thanks for your post

Our general advice to any woman who has noticed a recent breast change that persists, is to see the GP (family doctor) and get it properly checked out. Although most breast lumps do not turn out to be cancerous, they are often due to fibroadenomas (an overgrowth of glandular tissue), hormone level changes, or breast cysts or infection.

But it’s a good idea to get checked out by your GP. just to be on the safe side. They are trained to assess breast conditions and will be able to advise you to see if you need to be referred to a breast clinic. The majority of women referred to the breast clinic are found not to have breast cancer.

We are currently trying to get an impression of how satisfied Cancer Chat members are with the answers the nurses are posting to their questions. We would be very grateful if you would take a few minutes to fill in the feedback survey here.

I hope you know more about your situation soon.Give us a ring if you would like to talk things through.The number to call is Freephone 0808 800 4040 and the lines are open from 9am till 5pm Monday to Friday.

Best wishes,

Celene

What Can Cause a Chest Lump Other Than Cancer?

Even benign chest lumps can cause problems if they grow too large, so it’s important to get a diagnosis. The following are some types of lumps that might develop in the chest:

Cyst

A cyst is a sac filled with fluid or other material. Breast cysts usually happen in women between 35 and 50 years old and are common with the approach of menopause.

You can also get a breast cyst from a blocked milk duct (galactocele).

Breast cysts may get bigger and more tender just before your period. When they develop just under the skin, they feel soft and smooth. When they develop deeper down, they can feel hard.

Breast cysts are usually painless, unless they grow particularly large. They’re rarely cancerous.

Among women, fibroadenomas are the most common benign breast lumps. The painless lump can happen at any age, but particularly in your 20s or 30s.

The lump is firm and smooth, and it moves freely when you touch it.

A lipoma is a clump of fatty tissue just underneath the skin. Lipomas are slow growing and painless, unless they press on a nerve or grow around blood vessels. They feel rubbery and move when you push on them.

Anyone can develop a lipoma, but they’re usually diagnosed in people between 40 and 60 years old.

Lipomas are usually harmless and almost always benign. However, there’s a very rare type of cancer called liposarcoma that grows in fatty tissues and can appear to be a deep lipoma.

Fat necrosis happens when fatty breast tissue is damaged from an injury to the breast or following lumpectomy or radiation treatment. This noncancerous lump is painless, round, and firm.

Abscess

Sometimes, a breast lump turns out to be an abscess. That’s a build-up of pus that becomes inflamed.

Symptoms can include:

  • soreness
  • fatigue
  • fever

Hematoma

A hematoma is a blood-filled mass caused by a surgical procedure or injury to the breast. It should heal on its own.

Sclerosing adenosis

This happens when there’s an overgrowth of tissues in breast lobules. It can cause lumps that look like calcifications on a mammogram.

Nodular fasciitis

Nodular fasciitis is a type of benign tumor that can occur anywhere in the body, including the chest wall, but rarely in the breasts.

The lump is fast growing, feels firm, and might have irregular margins. It may cause a certain amount of tenderness.

Injury to the chest

Sometimes, a superficial lump can form shortly after an injury to the chest. It may be painful, but pain and swelling are likely to improve when you apply ice.

Extrapulmonary tuberculosis

Bone tuberculosis can cause lumps in the chest wall, ribs, spinal column, and sternum. Other symptoms include:

  • tenderness
  • pain
  • weight loss

Breast cancer

A lump in the breast can be a sign of breast cancer. Cancerous lumps are usually hard and have irregular edges, but lumps due to breast cancer can also be soft or round. They may or may not be painful.

Other signs of breast cancer include:

  • dimpling of the skin
  • red, flaky, or thickening skin
  • swelling of the breast, even if there’s no noticeable lump
  • nipple turning inward
  • nipple discharge
  • nipple or breast pain
  • swollen lymph nodes under the arm or around the collar bone

Common Benign Lumps

How are cysts diagnosed and treated?

Your healthcare provider may find a cyst during a physical exam. He or she may confirm the diagnosis with a mammogram or ultrasound. You may also have a fine-needle aspiration. This involves guiding a very fine needle into the cyst and drawing fluid from it (aspiration). This also serves as the treatment for this condition. Once the fluid is aspirated, the cyst collapses and disappears. But, cysts can reappear later, in which case they are simply drained again. Cysts are seldom cancerous (malignant).

What is a fibroadenoma?

Fibroadenomas are solid, smooth, firm, noncancerous (benign) lumps that are most commonly found in women in their 20s and 30s. They are the most common benign lumps in women and can occur at any age. They are increasingly being seen in postmenopausal women who are taking hormone therapy.

The painless lump feels rubbery and moves around freely. You may find one yourself. Fibroadenomas vary in size and can grow anywhere in the breast tissue.

How are fibroadenomas diagnosed and treated?

Your healthcare provider may diagnose this type of lump simply by feeling it. But, he or she will want to confirm the diagnosis with a mammogram or ultrasound and fine-needle aspiration. Sometimes, in very young women, the fibroadenoma is not removed. However, since sometimes these tumors enlarge with pregnancy and breastfeeding, your provider may suggest having it surgically removed.

While most fibroadenomas do not lead to cancer, there is a type of fibroadenoma that has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, particularly in women with a family history of the disease.

What is fat necrosis?

Fat necrosis is a condition in which painless, round, firm lumps caused by damaged and disintegrating fatty tissues form in the breast tissue. Fat necrosis often occurs in women with very large breasts or who have had a bruise or blow to the breast. This condition may also be the result of a lumpectomy and radiation from a prior cancerous lump. In some cases, healthcare providers will watch the lump through several menstrual cycles. He or she may want to do a mammogram before deciding whether to remove it. These lumps are not cancerous and they do not increase your risk of cancer.

What is galactocele (milk retention cysts)?

These are fluid-filled masses usually caused by a blocked milk duct.

What is a hematoma?

A hematoma is a blood-filled mass caused by injury or a surgical procedure of the breast.

What is sclerosing adenosis?

Sclerosing adenosis is excess growth of tissues in the breast’s lobules. This often causes breast pain. While these changes in the breast tissue are very small, they may show up on mammograms as calcifications and can make lumps. Usually a biopsy is needed to rule out cancer. In addition, because the condition can be mistaken for cancer, the lumps are usually removed through surgical biopsy.

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