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Lumps don't always mean breast cancer, but you should know when to be concerned

Posted October 21

A lump is the most common symptom of breast cancer, so many women worry if they feel a mass or notice a change in breast tissue. In reality, most lumps are not cancerous. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore them.

Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Diane Radford said knowing what normal breast tissue looks and feels like is important. It makes it easier to recognize something new or different. Several things may cause a lump other than breast cancer.

“If it's something they've never noticed before in a different area of the breast, that should be evaluated,” Radford said.

Some breast lumps may come and go with a woman’s menstrual cycle. There are also non-cancerous growths like cysts.

Connective tissue conditions can also lead to lumpiness or tenderness. Injury to the breast and infection in the breast can also leave scar tissue, tissue changes and pain.

But there are certain characteristics of lumps that are worrisome and should be taken more seriously.

“Cancer can feel somewhat irregular in texture. Lumps that you can compress, than can actually change shape when you squeeze them are usually just benign fatty lobules, which are part of the normal anatomy of the breast,” Radford said.

If the lump does not compress, Radford said, see your doctor for an evaluation. Early detection of breast cancer leads to more successful outcomes. So call your doctor if you notice any persistent lumps, bumps or breast changes.

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