“I Found a Lump in my Breast. Should I be Worried?”

If you’ve ever discovered a lump in your breast, you may have panicked and wondered, do I have breast cancer? What does a breast cancer lump actually feel like? Are any lumps normal in breasts?

Breast cancer lumps can feel hard or soft, and often no lump occurs at all, Debra Patt, MD, PhD, MBA, an oncologist and breast cancer specialist at Texas Oncology in Austin, told Patient Power.

“Breast cancer can have many presentations – a soft or hard lump, a dimple in the breast or new nipple inversion, skin changes, pain, or no symptoms at all,” Dr. Patt explained. Screening mammography assists us in detecting breast cancer that occurs without new symptoms, which is why it is so important, she added.

Breast cancer can occur anywhere in the breast, in the nipple, or even the axilla (armpit), Dr. Patt said. Breast tissue is present in all these areas.

Roberta Lombardi, breast cancer survivor and now patient advocate and Infinite Strength founder, said the cancerous lump she found in her breast felt like a hard pebble.

As far as symptoms patients might experience, a cancerous lump in the breast may or may not be painful to the touch, Lombardi said. Cancer in the breast rarely causes pain. If it spreads to the bones or organs, then a person may experience pain.

Not All Lumps Are Cancerous

People may commonly experience normal lumps in their breasts. These lumps are called fibroadenomas and are not cancerous, according to Dr. Patt.

Lombardi added she’s heard many women say they experience lumps in their breasts during their period. These lumps may be somewhat painful, and the breasts will get sore, Lombardi said. Also, some women get cysts, and these need to be drained in some cases. All breast lumps should be evaluated by your doctor.

Always Get Evaluated by Your Doctor

You often cannot tell the difference between an actual lump and normal breast tissue, according to Dr. Patt.

“If you have a lump, it should be evaluated by your doctor and often will require imaging – like mammography and ultrasound to help us understand if it may or may not be breast cancer,” Dr. Patt said.

The best way to know when there is cause for concern is to know what the norm is for your body, Lombardi said. “I knew when I felt a pebble-like, hard lump that something was definitely wrong. I had battled painful breasts during my period most of my life and had cysts pop up. This was totally different.”

This article was originally published July 19, 2022 and most recently updated August 3, 2022.
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Michael Hunter, MD, Radiation Oncologist: