Breast lump is a common cause of anxiety among women of reproductive age.This can be due to the misconception that having a breast lump could be a sign of imminent breast cancer.
Actually, not all breast lumps are cancerous. Would you like to learn how to distinguish non-cancerous breast lumps from cancerous ones? What does a breast lump actually feel like? The specific features of a breast lump, causes and treatment modality would be highlighted subsequently.
HOW DOES A BREAST LUMP FEEL?
A breast lump feels like a bean or pea shaped swelling that differentiates itself from the normal surrounding breast tissue. It can be painful or painless depending on the cause .
Breast lump during your menstrual period is expected due to the hormonal changes resulting in the accumulation of fluid in your breast tissue. Hence, breast self-exam is best done after your period ceases.
FEATURES OF BENIGN AND CANCEROUS BREAST LUMPS
80% of breast lumps are the benign type. They are soft in consistency and mobile; the lump moves underneath the skin when you touch it. On the other hand, cancerous lumps are hard and immobile. Mobility of lumps is one of the key distinguishing factors between cancerous and non-cancerous lumps. Of note, when you feel any lump in your breast, you should visit your doctor immediately for further examination and evaluation to determine the type.
BREAST LUMP CAUSES
- Fibrocystic changes: This occurs due to hormonal fluxes during menstruation. Here, the lump feels fibrous, rubbery and has a fluid filled cyst.The size of the cysts varies with the phase of your menstrual cycle. A breast scan is used to adequately check persistent breast cysts.
- Fibroadenoma: It is common in teenage girls and young lasies who have abused birth control pills in their teens.It is characterized by being round, firm and mobile under the skin.Diagnosis is confirmed by surgical lump excision and microscopic examination of this breast tissue.
- Mastitis: This is caused by infection of the ductal channels resulting in a red, warm and painful lump. It is seen in breastfeeding mothers who have engorged breasts.Treatment is by administering broad spectrum antibiotics for 7-10 days.
- Fat Necrosis: An injury to the fatty breast tissue may lead to the tissue damage and aggregation of the fats resulting in oily cyst.
- Breast cancer: This is due to genetic mutation affecting the breast tissue causing abnormal proliferation and lumpy growth. This is seen in persons with the genetic predisposition because some types of breast cancers have strong familial tendencies. Breast cancer lumps are often painless and grow bigger faster over a short period unlike other types of breast lumps.
Imaging tests are the mainstay of investigations done to properly visualize the breast tissue.
- Mammogram:It is a specialized breast xray which takes images of the breast in various angles revealing breast lesions across different planes.
- Breast ultrasound scan: Sound waves directed to the breast tissue creates images of the breast that are clearly visible on a monitor.
- Breast Magnetic resonance imaging: This is used in special cases where breast lesions are not clear on either mammogram or ultrasound scan. It utilizes magnetic and radio-waves to create a thorough image of the breast.
Breast biopsy via ultrasound guidance with a local anesthetic is done to excise the breast lump and this sample is microscopically examined to determine if it is cancerous or not.Surgical excision of the breast lump is usually the main form of treatment.
Breast lump can be caused by a variety of factors. Having a breast lump does not mean it is cancerous though it calls for a thorough examination by your doctor. Regular breast self examination is recommended in order to detect early any suspicious breast lump or breast changes which may signal breast cancer.