Breast lumps or changes are a common health worry for most women.
Women may have many kinds of breast lumps and other
breast changes throughout their lives, including
changes that occur with menstrual periods, pregnancy, and aging. Most breast
lumps and breast changes are normal.
See a picture of the
Breast development is the first sign of puberty in young
girls. Usually, breasts begin as small, tender bumps under one or both nipples
that will get bigger over the next few years. It is not unusual for one breast
to be larger than the other or for one side to develop before the other. A girl
may worry that a lump under the nipple is abnormal or a sign of a serious
medical problem when it is a part of normal breast development.
Common, noncancerous (benign) breast changes
Many women with breast pain or breast
lumps worry about breast cancer.
The earlier breast cancer is detected,
the more easily and successfully it can be treated.
There are two
common methods of early detection:
Breast self-examination (BSE) involves checking your
breasts for lumps or changes while standing and lying in different positions
and while looking at your breasts in a mirror. Once you know what your breasts
normally look and feel like, any new lump or change in appearance should be
evaluated by a doctor. Most breast problems or changes are not caused by
cancer. But BSE should not be used in place of clinical breast examination
and mammography. Studies have not shown that BSE alone reduces the number of
deaths from breast cancer.
cancer is often seen on a
mammogram before there are any symptoms. The most
common symptom of breast cancer is a painless lump. But sometimes painful
lumps are cancerous. Other symptoms of breast cancer include:
men, enlargement of male breast tissue (gynecomastia) is a
noncancerous breast change. Breast buds are common in teenage boys during puberty. The buds may last up to 2 years, but they tend to go away within the first year. Breast buds develop because of rapid
changes in hormone levels.
Treatment of a breast problem depends on the cause of the
Check your symptoms to decide if and when
you should see a doctor.
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Breast self-exams are a simple way
for you to learn what your breasts normally feel like. During a breast
self-exam, you examine your own breasts to look and feel for changes from one
month to the next. You will learn how your breasts feel and what is normal for
you so that you can spot any changes early. For more information about how to
do a breast self-exam, see the topic
If you have pain or a fever from a breast problem or injury, you can try nonprescription medicines for your symptoms.
Talk to your child’s doctor before switching back and
forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two
medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Alternative medicines or supplements
may help relieve breast tenderness, discomfort, or pain (mastalgia). As with
all alternative medicines and supplements, be sure to follow the
directions on the label. Do not exceed the maximum recommended dose. If you are
or could be pregnant, talk with your doctor before taking any medicine or
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
To prevent breast tenderness, discomfort,
or pain (mastalgia), follow these tips:
To prevent nipple irritation during exercise:
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the
CitationsGoyal A (2011). Breast pain, search date May 2010. BMJ Clinical Evidence. Available online: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.Other Works ConsultedAmerican Cancer Society (2009). Prevention and Early Detection: American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer. Atlanta: American Cancer Society. Available online: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/content/ped_2_3X_ACS_Cancer_Detection_Guidelines_36.asp.U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2009). Screening for breast cancer. Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspsbrca.htm.
September 9, 2011
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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