Breast Lumps In Women

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    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.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    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.

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Infections that cause breast lumps

Inflammation of the breast tissue is known as mastitis. Mastitis may occur in women who are breastfeeding a baby (lactating). When the skin of the nipple (areola) is injured or cracked, which may occur with nursing, bacteria can enter the damaged area 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, and these may be particularly difficult to treat.

Injuries that cause breast lumps

If a breast is injured by trauma, tiny blood vessels can rupture to cause an area of localized bleeding (hematoma) that can be felt as a lump. Trauma to the breast can damage the fat cells in the breast tissue, a condition called fat necrosis. The injury can also form a lump in the breast. These types of lumps that follow a significant trauma are not cancerous. Fat necrosis can also occur at the site of a previous breast biopsy.

Non-cancerous growths that cause breast lumps

  • Fibroadenomas are benign (not cancerous) growths and are very common. These growths most commonly occur in women 30 to 35 years old, but can also occur in women under 30 years of age. Fibroadenomas are solid, firm tumors that are usually painless or only slightly tender. They sometimes grow quickly in teenagers or during pregnancy.
  • Breast cysts are fluid-filled, sacs within the breast tissue and are benign. They are very common, especially over the age of 35. These cysts often vary in size during the menstrual cycle and may be tender.
  • Fibrocystic changes are characterized by breasts that are lumpy with many irregularities in the breast tissue itself. Fibrocystic breasts seem to occur when a woman's breasts are overly sensitive to fluctuating hormone levels. Women with fibrocystic changes may have pain and/or lumps.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/2/2015
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