A breast lump is a mass that develops in the breast. Breast lumps vary in size and texture and may cause pain. Depending on the type, breast lumps may be large or small and may feel hard or spongy. Some lumps cause pain, while others go unnoticed until identified during an imaging test.
A lump may be discovered by a woman doing breast self-exam or by her healthcare provider during a physical exam. Suspicious lumps may also be detected during annual screening mammography. Although uncommon, breast lumps can occur in men.
It is important to become familiar with how your breasts normally look and feel so that you are able to report any changes to your doctor. Once detected, your doctor will likely perform a physical exam to evaluate a breast lump. To determine whether that lump is benign, your doctor will likely order a mammogram and/or breast ultrasound at one of our Imaging Centers for further evaluation. Most breast lumps are benign (not cancer). Proving that a lump is not cancer often involves imaging tests. One or more of the following imaging tests may be performed:
- Mammogram: Mammography uses low dose x-rays to examine the breasts. Either two single images or two tomosynthesis images (also called 3-D mammography) are taken of each breast to begin the evaluation. Additional images may be needed.
- Breast Ultrasound: Breast ultrasound uses sound waves to create pictures of the inside of the breasts. Breast ultrasound can capture images of areas of the breast that may be difficult to see with mammography. It can also help to determine whether a breast lump is solid or fluid.
If a lump is proven to be benign by its appearance on these exams, no further steps may need to be taken. Your doctor may want to monitor the area at future visits to check if the breast lump has changed, grown or gone away. If these tests do not clearly show that the lump is benign, evaluation by a breast surgeon and a possible biopsy may be necessary. These biopsies are performed by one of our breast surgeons, following a consultation, using state of the line technology offered at the Hunterdon Breast Surgery Center.