• Dr Peter Chew

Breast Lump: Is it cancer?

Q. I am 30 years old and single. Recently, I found a lump in my left breast while bathing. It moves freely and is not painful . I am worried it could be cancer. What should I do?


A. Although most lumps in the breast are usually non-cancerous, you should seek medical advice and have them checked.


The doctor will confirm the presence or absence of the lump/s. He will also take note of the following:

· The size, shape, contour, mobility and sensitivity of the lump/s.

· Presence of lump/s in the other breast and in the armpits

· The feel or appearance of the skin over the breast. The skin may be puckered, look scaly, inflamed or have dimples

· Presence of retracted nipples

· Bloody discharge from the nipples


Further tests such as mammography or ultrasound of the breasts may be done to ascertain the nature of the lump.

Common non-cancerous breast lumps include:


(1)Fibrocystic breast disease

Cyclical levels of the hormones during normal menstrual cycles can cause changes in the breast which may be lumpy and tender just before menses.

The lumps are milk ducts and surrounding tissues that grow and swell rapidly under the influence of the hormones. They may be hard or rubbery and the breast tissue may be thickened.

After menopause, these types of breast changes do not happen as there is no more hormonal stimulation.


(2)Fibroadenomas.

These are commonly found in women between 20 to 30. They are solid, painless, round, and rubbery and move freely. They are due to excessive growth of the milk glands and surrounding breast tissue.


(3) Intraductal papillomas

These are small growths in the lining of the milk duct near the nipple. They usually affect women between 45 to 50 years old and can produce bloody discharge from the nipple.


(4) Breast infection (Mastitis)

This often occurs during breastfeeding and is caused by bacteria that enter the milk ducts through the nipple. The infection may cause a painful lump and the skin over it may feel warm and red.



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