Breast Lumps in Women

Often what is thought of as a "mass" or "lump" is actually normal breast tissue, not cancer. This area of the breast can feel thickened, ridge-like, lumpy or asymmetrical compared with the other breast. When a lump has normal imaging results and is not worrisome on physical exam, it is probably benign. Even when biopsied, most lumps are non-cancerous.

Common causes of lumps can be:

  • Fibroadenomas (solid benign lumps) and cysts (fluid filled sacs) These are by far the most common causes.
  • Lipomas (benign tumors made up of fatty tissue)
  • Injury to the breast
  • Mastitis (breast infection)

Evaluation can include:

  • Thorough medical history review and clinical breast exam
  • Mammogram and/or breast ultrasound  
  • Needle biopsy can be suggested, to remove a small piece of tissue to look at under a microscope
  • Aspiration (fluid withdrawal) of a cyst if it is symptomatic or abnormal on imaging

Follow-up can include:

  • Imaging and/or exam, depending on the findings and your particular situation
  • Routine screening, or earlier return to keep a close watch

If cancer is detected, you will be referred to our experienced, multidisciplinary breast cancer team.

If you notice a lump has changed, or feels new or unusual, or if you develop skin changes or nipple discharge, make an appointment for evaluation to be sure you don't have cancer. Early detection gives a greater chance of successful treatment.

Questions About Breast Lumps?

If you have questions about this topic, or would like more information, please talk with your health-care provider.

Virginia Mason's Breast Clinic, with locations in Seattle and Federal Way, is easily reached toll-free at (877) 433-9813. We make it a priority to answer your call promptly and to schedule you for the most appropriate exam.