Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
There are many causes of breast lumps. Some of
these causes are harmless, while others can be painful and/or dangerous. Causes
of breast lumps include infections, injuries, non-cancerous growths, and cancer.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of
cancer-related deaths in women in the United States. Currently, death rates from
breast cancer are declining. The decline in death rates may be due to a
combination of earlier detection and better screening as well as improved
treatments. While most breast lumps are harmless (benign), every breast lump
should be evaluated by a doctor to exclude or establish a diagnosis of cancer.
Picture of the anatomy of the breast
Infections that cause breast lumps
Inflammation of the breast tissue is known as mastitis. Mastitis is especially common in women who are
breastfeeding a baby (lactating). When the skin of the nipple (areola) is injured or cracked, such as occurs with nursing, bacteria can enter the wound and cause infections. In a breastfeeding woman, a hard area commonly thought of as
a "clogged milk duct" can form. Sometimes, certain treatments (see below) can prevent the painful, hard area from developing into an actual breast infection. Infections can either be a deep pocket of pus, in which the infection looks like it is growing down into the breast (an abscess), or a wider area of skin redness that spreads out (cellulitis). Body piercing in the nipple area increases the risk of breast infections that may be particularly difficult to treat.
Breast cancer may not cause signs and symptoms, so this is one reason that screening mammograms are essential. When symptoms do occur, the most common symptom is a mass or lump in the breast. Other symptoms that can occur are nipple discharge or redness, changes in the skin of the breast (such as dimpling or an orange-peel appearance), and swelling of part of the breast.