breast cancer self examIs every lump a sign of cancer?

Finding a lump during a self-breast examination would make any of us pause. But don't let just any lump send you into a spiral. After all, most lumps are benign. Here's a quick guide to understanding what is not a cause for concern and when to (actually) worry about breast lumps:

When not to worry

A number of skin or medical conditions can cause lumps to appear on the surface or just below the skin. Lumps that are not a cause for concern are typically soft and moveable, meaning they change form and location when you touch them. Mobile lumps that you can roll between your fingers are less likely to be cancerous than hard lumps that feel solid and fixed. There are two main types of common lumps:

1. Lumps connected to activity

Lumps can often appear in relation to a traumatic event, exercise, or activity. If your lump grows larger or painful with movement and diminishes in size with rest, then it is likely harmless.

2. Cysts

Lumps can also be fluid-filled, like the common medical condition of cysts. These types of lumps can often come and go with the hormonal fluctuations of your menstrual cycle. If a cyst goes away, you know your lump was indeed benign and not cause for concern.

When to talk to your doctor

Lumps that may be cancerous are typically single, hard bumps that can be felt outside of the body and under the skin. Generally painless to the touch, these lumps appear spontaneously and grow in size steadily over time. Other signs to look out for include changes in nipple appearance, nipple secretions, nipple tenderness, and dimpling or puckering of the skin.

If you find a lump of this nature or experience any of the other symptoms listed above, seek an evaluation by a medical professional, who can help you decide how to proceed.

Not all lumps are cause for concern

We all recognize how essential self-examination and early detection are to breast health. But it's also vital to understand what your findings might mean. Many lumps represent benign, treatable conditions. On rare occasions, unexplained lumps may be the sign of something more serious. Communicate any abnormalities and anxieties to your doctor, but in the meantime, remember: a lump is not a diagnosis.

wellness | health | Breast Cancer