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Small lumps commonly appear under the skin in different parts of the body. In most cases, they disappear before being noticed unless if they affect some sensitive areas, such as the head, face, neck or breasts. Patients of both genders often get scared when they notice even small abnormalities in the breast and nipple area, as breast cancer is the first thing that comes to their minds. 

Luckily, most of these changes under the skin are temporary and benign in nature, although they deserve examination and evaluation, especially in women.

Possible Causes Of Lumps In The Breast And Nipple Area

Fibroadenoma. When a solitary, mobile, solid, painless lump is found in the breast of a young woman or man (adolescence and early adulthood), fibroadenoma is a more likely diagnosis than breast cancer. This benign tumor of glandular tissue can grow to a large mass which then requires surgery. Otherwise, only regular follow-up is advised. Fibroadenomas normally do not develop into malignant tumors, except for some rare complex forms. They act similarly to normal breast tissue, so they can increase and decrease in size during different phases of menstrual cycle.

Breast cancer. Of all the lumps in breast area, 20 to 40 percent are malignant. In women older than 40 years, breast cancer is the most frequent malignant tumor. The incidence of breast cancer among women in United States is 12.3 percent (one in eight women), which is very high.

In most cases, breast cancer begins as a lump in the breast tissue, which then grows into a larger mass. It is usually irregular in shape, solid, and non-mobile. Although it is normally painless, breast cancer can apply pressure on nerve endings, thus producing pain. Pain is helpful in this case, as it gets the person to the medical office more quickly. Mammography is performed regularly as a screening technique in many countries in order to discover and remove the tumor before it results in metastases. Treatment includes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. The prognosis of breast cancer is poor after it gives metastases, so more and more attention is being given to preventive measures.

Fibrocystic disease. About 50 percent of lumps in breasts are a result of fibrocystic changes. Unlike breast cancer which is solitary, these changes are usually multiple and occur on both sides. Another common feature is pain which increases before a woman's period. Fibrocystic disease progresses and the changes become more complex with time. Therefore, they require regular follow-up, as there is a chance of developing breast cancer on the bases of progressed fibrocystic changes.

Making The Diagnosis

When reporting this problem to your doctor, make sure to include information about the onset of the lump, growth speed, discharge from the nipple, injuries in breast area, unexpected lactation, and systemic symptoms (feeling ill, increased body temperature, weight loss, sweating, etc.). For women, it is very important to report changes in menstrual cycle. All the changes in breast tissue are far more common in women than in men due to influence of sex hormones. Your doctor will also ask you about use of birth control pills, breastfeeding, infections, and family history of breast cancer. After that, your doctor may decide to follow the change or to order additional tests, such as a mammography, blood work, and tumor markers.

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