If you find a breast lump or other change in your breast, you may be worried about breast cancer – but take comfort in the odds. As many as 4 out of 5 breast lumps that are biopsied are noncancerous (benign). Still, it is important to have any breast lump evaluated by a doctor.
How Breast Tissue Normally Feels
Breasts contain tissues of varying consistency. Glandular tissue – primarily felt in the upper, outer part of the breast – usually feels firm and slightly rope-like, bumpy or lumpy. Surrounding fat tissue – often felt in the inner and lower parts of the breast – is soft. You may find that breast-related symptoms, such as tenderness or lumpiness, differ over the course of your menstrual cycle. Breast tissue also changes as you age, typically becoming fattier and less dense over time.
When To Consult a Doctor
Familiarity with your normal breast consistency will help you determine if there’s a change in your breasts. Consult your doctor if:
- You find a breast lump that’s new or unusual and feels different from breast tissue in either breast
- A new breast lump doesn’t go away after your next period
- A breast lump seems to have changed – it gets bigger, for instance
- You have bloody discharge from your nipple
- You notice skin changes on your breast, such as redness, crusting, dimpling or puckering
- Your nipple suddenly turns inward (inversion)
What to Expect During a Clinical Breast Exam
Evaluation of a breast lump typically begins with a clinical breast exam. During this exam the doctor will likely:
- Ask about symptoms and your risk factors for breast cancer or benign breast conditions
- Look at your breasts, noting their shape and size
- Observe the condition of the overlying skin on your breasts
- Check for nipple problems, such as inversion or discharge
- Feel deeper tissue in your breasts and armpits for lumps, prominent nodular areas or areas of thickening.
If the doctor confirms that you have a breast lump or other area of concern, you’ll likely need testing to determine what’s causing the problem. To further evaluate a breast lump, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following tests or procedures:
- Breast Biopsy
- Breast MRI
- Pet Mammogram (PET)
- Surgical Biopsy