Finding a lump or mass in your breast is sure to make your stomach sink. After all, more than 40,000 women are expected to die from breast cancer in the U.S. during 2017 alone. But while you should certainly take precautions and contact your doctor for an exam, it's also important to keep a level head. Many breast lumps are not, in fact cancerous. Here's a look at three likely culprits.
If you are due to get your period in a few days and just noticed the lumps appear suddenly, there's a good chance they are fibroid cysts. This type of cyst generally appears near the nipple. They are typically found in both breasts, but can certainly be found in just one. When you palpate them with your fingers, they may feel hard and rubber-like.
Fibroids are quite harmless and will typically disappear after your period begins. You may notice them again in subsequent months. If they really bother you, your doctor may be able to prescribe hormone supplements to help keep them at bay.
If the lump feels small a rubbery but can be pushed around under your skin without causing pain, you may have a fibroadenoma. This is a type of benign tumor that forms in the glands that produce milk. They can appear at any age and are more common in African American women than in those of European descent. Most people do not need to have their fibroadenomas removed, but if you become pregnant or plan on having children, your doctor will likely want to monitor them to ensure they don't interfere with milk production.
Are the lumps squishy? Are they tender when you press on them? They may be simple cysts, which can range in size from the size of a pea to the size of a mandarin orange. Simple cysts are filled with fluid, and while they are pretty harmless, they can be painful. They are affected by your menstrual cycle, and taking birth control pills may help shrink them or make them less painful. If the cysts grow too large, your doctor may need to remove them or drain them.
When you discover a lump in your breast, don't automatically assume it is cancer. Though breast cancer is a legitimate concern—and you should definitely see your doctor—there's a very good chance you've only dealing with one of the issues described above. Contact a doctor like Michael A. Goldfarb MD FACS for more information.