Breast lump: Early evaluation is essential

A breast lump deserves medical attention. Know what to expect during a clinical breast exam — and what happens when a lump needs further evaluation.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you find a breast lump or other change in your breast, you might worry about breast cancer.

That's understandable — but remember that breast lumps are common. Most often they're noncancerous (benign), particularly in younger women. Still, no matter how old you are, it's important to have any breast lump evaluated by a doctor, especially if it's new and feels different from surrounding breast tissue.

How breast tissue normally feels

Breasts contain tissues of varying consistency. The glandular tissue in the upper, outer part of the breast usually feels slightly rope-like, bumpy or lumpy (nodular).The surrounding fat tissue, often felt in the inner and lower parts of the breast, is soft and less nodular or lumpy than the upper, outer breast.

You might find that breast-related symptoms, such as tenderness or lumpiness, change with your menstrual cycle. Breast tissue also changes as you age, typically becoming more fatty and less dense.

When to consult your doctor

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Being familiar with how your breasts normally feel makes it easier to detect when there's a change in your breasts.

Consult your doctor if:

  • You find a new breast lump
  • A new breast lump or breast pain doesn't go away after your next period
  • An existing breast lump gets bigger or otherwise changes
  • You notice skin changes on your breast, such as redness, crusting, dimpling or puckering
  • You notice changes in your nipple — it turns inward (inversion) or appears flatter, for instance
  • You notice spontaneous nipple discharge from one breast that's clear, yellow, brown or red
May 15, 2015 See more In-depth