Common Benign Lumps

Common Benign Lumps

What are some common types of benign breast lumps?


Illustration of the anatomy of the female breast, front view

Noncancer (benign) breast lumps can
have many causes. Two of the most common causes of benign single breast lumps are
cysts
and fibroadenomas. Several other conditions can also appear as lumps. These are fat
necrosis and sclerosing adenosis. Only your healthcare provider can diagnose your breast
lump.  

What is an abscess?

A breast abscess is a pocket of pus
that causes swelling and a sore lump in the breast. Other symptoms include fever and
tiredness.

What is a cyst?

A cyst is a fluid-filled sac in the
breast tissue. Cysts most often happen in women between ages 35 and 50. They are common
in those nearing menopause, but they can develop at any age. The cysts often get larger
and become sore just before your period. They may seem to appear overnight. Cysts
are
rarely cancer (malignant). They may be caused by blocked breast glands.

Cysts can feel either soft or hard.
When close to the surface of the breast, cysts can feel like a large blister–smooth
on
the outside, but fluid-filled on the inside. When they are deep in breast tissue,
cysts
will feel like hard lumps because they are covered with tissue.

How are cysts diagnosed and treated?


Illustration of the anatomy of the female breast, side view

Your healthcare provider may find a
cyst during a physical exam. They may confirm the diagnosis with a mammogram or
ultrasound. You may also have a fine-needle aspiration. For this, the provider guides
a
very fine needle into the cyst and draws fluid from it (aspiration). Aspiration also
works as the treatment for this condition. Once the fluid is removed, the cyst collapses
and goes away. But cysts can return. If they do, they are simply drained again. Cysts
are seldom cancer.

What is a fibroadenoma?

Fibroadenomas are solid, smooth,
firm, noncancer lumps most often found in women in their 20s and 30s. They are the
most
common benign lumps in women and can occur at any age. They are increasingly being
seen
in postmenopausal women who are taking hormone therapy.

The painless lump feels rubbery and moves around freely. You may find one yourself.
Fibroadenomas vary in size and can grow anywhere in the breast tissue.

How are fibroadenomas diagnosed and treated?

Your healthcare provider may
diagnose this type of lump simply by feeling it. But they will want to confirm the
diagnosis with a mammogram or ultrasound and fine-needle aspiration. In very young
women, the fibroadenoma sometimes is not removed. But because these tumors sometimes
get
larger with pregnancy and breastfeeding, your provider may suggest having it
removed.

Most fibroadenomas don’t lead to
cancer. But one type of fibroadenoma has been linked to an increased risk for cancer.
This is true in women with a family history of the disease.

What is fat necrosis?

Fat necrosis is a condition where
painless, round, firm lumps caused by damaged and disintegrating fatty tissues form
in
the breast tissue. Fat necrosis often occurs in women with very large breasts. It
also
occurs in women who have had a bruise or blow to the breast. This condition may also
happen after a lumpectomy and radiation from an earlier cancer lump. In some cases,
healthcare providers will watch the lump through several menstrual cycles. They may
want
to do a mammogram before deciding whether to remove it. These lumps are not cancer
and
they don’t increase your risk for cancer.

What is galactocele (milk retention
cysts)? 

These are fluid-filled masses usually caused by a blocked milk duct.

What is a hematoma? 

A hematoma is a blood-filled mass caused by injury or a surgical procedure of the
breast.

What is sclerosing adenosis?

Sclerosing adenosis is extra growth
of tissues in the breast’s lobules. This often causes breast pain. These changes in
the
breast tissue are very small, but they may show up on mammograms as calcifications
and
can make lumps. Usually a biopsy is needed to rule out cancer. This condition can
also
be mistaken for cancer, so the lumps are usually removed through surgical biopsy.