Breast lumps are commonand have a number of different causes.

Although most lumps aren't breast cancer, any unusual changes to the breasts should be checked by a GP as soon as possible. If your GP finds a lump on examination, they will routinely refer you to be seen by a hospital specialist.

There are several types of benign (non-cancerous) breast lump, most of which are harmless and are caused by hormonal changes that occur at different times in a woman's life, such as during the menstrual cycle .

Common types of benign breast lump include:

  • a fibroadenoma a firm lump that moves around easilyin the breast and ismore common in younger women
  • a breast cyst a smooth, firm fluid-filled lump most commonly seenin women aged 30 to 60
  • a Breast abscess a painful collection of pus that forms under the skin of the breast, usually as the result of a bacterial infection

Checking your breasts

It's important to be" breast aware " so you can identify any problems in your breasts and get them checked out as soon as possible. This meansbeing familiar with your breasts and what is normal for them, and examining them regularly for any changes.

If you are 50 years or over, it's also important to attend breast cancer screening appointments every three years, where a type of X-ray called a mammogram will be carried out to look for early signs of cancer.

But don'twait until your next screening appointment if you notice any problems in your breast. See your GP right away.

Seeing your GP

It isimportantyou see your GP as soon as possible if you notice a lump in your breasts soa cause can be confirmed. Finding a lump in your breast can be a worry, butaround 90% ofbreast lumpsare benign.

You also should see your GP if you notice any other changes to one or both of your breasts, such as:

  • an area of thickened tissue
  • nipple discharge , which maycontain blood
  • a change in the size or shape of your breasts
  • dimpling on the skin of your breasts
  • a rash on or around your nipples
  • a change in your nipple's appearance for example,becoming sunken into your breast
  • persistent pain in your breasts or armpits
  • a lump or swelling inyour armpits

Your GP will ask you about your symptoms and will then ask your permission to examine your breasts.You should also be asked whether you'd like another staff member such as a practice nurse to be present while your breast is being examined.

Further tests

Your GPmay then refer you for further tests, such as an ultrasound scan and mammogram, to determine the cause.

Being referred for further testing can be scary, but it does not necessarily mean your GP thinks you have breast cancer. Most people who have these further tests are eventually found to have a benign condition.

This will normally be done under general anaesthetic (where you are asleep) and you will usually be able to go home the same day.


Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 29 Jun 2016