Does a lump always mean cancer?

May 04, 2016 | by Christine Gresik, MD

Picture this – you’re at the doctor’s office and your physician finds a lump in your breast they want you to have biopsied. What goes through your mind? You are immediately concerned, of course.

As hard as it is to stay calm during this scenario, it is important to get your facts straight first before reacting. Just because you or your doctor found a lump, does not mean you have cancer. Not every lump is worth worrying about—and some can be deceiving.  According to a recent study, in women younger than 40, 80 to 85 percent of breast lumps are benign and non-cancerous.

Aside from cancer, breast lumps can also be caused by injuries, infections and non-cancerous growths. Changes in hormones during a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle can also cause changes in your breasts.

Schedule an appointment with your physician if you:

  • Notice a lump or thickening inside the breast or underarm
  • See swelling in and around your breast, armpit and collarbone
  • Have discolored or warm skin or skin turning red and starting to itch
  • Have nipple discharge
  • Feel unsure about whether you have found a lump

Unlike having pain when you are hurt or injured, breast lumps are often painless. Warning signs and symptoms are not the same for every woman, and the only person who can tell you whether a lump is cancerous is your physician. Your physician can detect cancer through regular checkups and early screenings.

The American Cancer Society recommends women ages 40 to 44 (at average risk) have the choice to start annual breast cancer screenings with mammograms. For women ages 45 to 54, mammograms should start every year, and at 55 years and up, mammograms should be conducted every two years. See guidelines for women at high risk of breast cancer.

Talk to your physician and determine when and how often you should be screened. Pay attention to your body and your body’s warning signs and schedule yearly visits with your doctor to detect cancer early.  

Find a healthy driven doctor.

Learn more about breast health.

Are you BreastAware? Take a free, five-minute test to learn your risk for breast cancer.

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