What Does a Breast Cancer Lump Feel Like?

One of the most common signs of breast cancer is a lump. While feeling something suspicious in your breast can be alarming to say the least. But most breast lumps are not cancerous. How do you know what a breast cancer lump feels like? Learn what to look for and when to seek help from a specialist.

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Know Your Body

To potentially spot signs of breast cancer, it’s important to know your body. Keep in mind that everyone’s breasts are different. And what is normal for you may not be normal for someone else. Understanding how your breasts look and feel can help alert you to a new lump or any other potential breast changes.

When feeling your breasts for something suspicious, don’t just focus on finding what you think a breast cancer lump would feel like. The goal is to identify anything that is different from normal. In fact, breast tissue has a naturally bumpy feel. And some people’s breasts are lumpier than others. If your breast tissue has an overall bumpy texture throughout both breasts, this is likely the feel of your normal breast tissue. Unfortunately, it can make detecting a breast cancer lump—or any other change—more difficult. The key is knowing your body, and knowing your “normal”.

Simply feeling the breast doesn’t give you enough information to tell the difference between a cancerous mass and a benign one. The key is to know your breasts, pay attention to any changes and get anything out of the ordinary checked.

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Loma Linda University Cancer Center
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Is it a Breast Cancer Lump?

Lumps or masses in the breast are common. Thankfully most of them are benign—meaning they are not cancerous. Fluid-filled cysts and noncancerous tumors such as fibroadenomas can often present as a lump, raising concern of cancer. Benign breast conditions, like fibrocystic changes, can cause the breasts to feel lumpy. So how can you tell if a mass is a breast cancer lump and not one of these other conditions?

A breast cancer lump is usually hard with irregular borders and painless. They can occur anywhere in the breast or even the armpit. It can be difficult to tell if a mass is mobile or just moving the tissues around it.

Bottom line? Simply feeling the breast doesn’t give you enough information to tell the difference between a cancerous mass and a benign one. The key is to know your breasts, pay attention to any changes and get anything out of the ordinary checked by a medical professional for further work-up.

What to Do If You Find a Lump

If you find a lump or suspicious area in your breast, don’t panic. Make an appointment to see your doctor right away. This is important even if you’ve had cysts or other benign breast issues before. Don’t assume that every breast lump or change is the same.

Your doctor will likely refer you for a diagnostic mammogram, which is one of the best ways to help differentiate a benign lump from a cancerous one. They may also order an ultrasound of the breast. Advanced imaging and expertise allows doctors to detect concerning breast abnormalities earlier and more accurately. The Breast Health Center at Loma Linda University Cancer Center offers the most advanced breast cancer screening capabilities including all types of mammography, such as 3-D mammograms. What’s more, an expert radiologist dedicated solely to breast imaging reads all mammography studies.

Patient navigators are registered nurses trained in oncology care to guide you through the challenges of dealing with cancer. They are here to support you as you go through diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Contact the Patient Navigator team at 800-782-2623.

Beyond the Breast Cancer Lump

Feeling a lump or a new change in your breast is a signal that you should make an appointment with your doctor. Other potential signs of breast cancer warrant a trip as well. Many of these changes can be seen as well as felt so make sure you continue to be aware of your breasts and your “normal.

Other potential signs of breast cancer include:

  • Skin changes, such as dimpled, puckering or scaly skin
  • Change in size, shape, skin texture or color of your breast
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk
  • Nipple changes such as inversion, tenderness or flaking
  • Swelling on part of your breast or enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit

The Importance of Screening

Regularly checking for a breast cancer lump or other change is easy and can potentially alert you to a problem. But most tumors cannot be felt, especially in early stages. That’s why sticking to a regular breast cancer screening schedule is so important.

Ask your doctor when you should begin screening and how often. Continue to watch for changes between appointments.