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Lump in the Breast

By Bjarne Lühr Hansen PhD, MD and Philipp Skafte-Holm MD, Mentor Institute

Most lumps in the breast are benign, however, breast cancer must be ruled out. Therefore, if you discover a lump in your chest, you should contact the doctor as soon as possible. Your general practitioner can refer you to further examination with a specialist if there is suspicion of breast cancer.

Far most lumps in the breast are benign. The most frequent type of lump is ‘milk knots’ (fibroadenomer), however, breast cancer must be ruled out.

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer with women. This is why all lumps in the breast should be examined closer by a doctor.

An inflamed bulge of a milk duct (cysts) can cause a lump in the breast, milk knots (fibroidadenom), inflammation of the breast tissue (mastitis) and breast cancer. The younger the woman, the smaller risk of breast cancer. With women less than 35 years old, a lump in the breast is only very rarely breast cancer. With women more than 50 years old, every lump in the chest is considered cancer until proven otherwise.

The following conditions increase the risk of a lump in the breast being breast cancer:

  • Flux from the nipple.
  • Breast cancer in the closest family.
  • The lump is hard and is firmly located within the chest.
  • Eczema or wounds above the lump.
  • Newly formed inward turned nipple.
  • Sore lumps in the armpit.
  • The woman is more than 35 years old.

Further reading on Mammography.

What can you do?

The woman who has it discovers most cases of breast cancer. Therefore, there is good reason for women older than 35 years check their breasts regularly. You know your own breast best and know when a lump has formed.

What can your doctor do?

  • If you discover a new lump in your breast.
  • If you have an eczema or a wound on your breast.
  • If secrete runs from the nipple.
  • If your nipple starts turning inward.
  • If you feel sore lumps in the armpit.

Your general practitioner asks about the conditions surrounding your menstruation, possible births and use of hormones. By feeling your chest and armpits thoroughly the doctor can evaluate whether the lump requires further examinations. Most women more than 35 years old with a newly discovered lump are referred to closer study with a specialist while this rarely happens if the woman is less than 35 years old.

What can a specialist doctor do?

If you general practitioner evaluates that there is a risk that the lump in the chest can be breast cancer, he or she refers you to a specialist.

Women referred to a specialist on suspicion of breast cancer are examined in a certain order. First, the specialist feels the lump, thereafter the lump is presented on a picture (mammography or ultrasound) and finally surgery (a tissue is taken from the lump or the lump is removed. Using this method the diagnosis can be made with almost 100% certainty.

If it appears to be breast cancer, further treatment will take place in a cancer ward.