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Home > Understanding Breast Cancer > Early Detection & Screening > What to Do If You Find a Lump

What to Do If You Find a Lump



When You Discover a Lump
Fact Sheet

If you feel a lump in your breast, do not panic. Most lumps are not breast cancer, but something less serious, like a benign breast condition (more on benign breast conditions). 

Some lumps will go away on their own. In younger women, lumps are often related to menstrual periods and will go away by the end of the cycle. However, if you find a lump, it is best to see your health care provider to be sure.

Breast lumps or lumpiness

Many women’s breasts feel lumpy. Breast tissue naturally has a bumpy texture that varies from one woman to another. For some women, the lumpiness is more pronounced than for others. In most cases, this lumpiness is no cause to worry. If the lumpiness can be felt throughout the breast and feels like your other breast, it is likely just normal breast tissue.  

Lumps that feel harder or different from the rest of the breast tissue (or the tissue of the other breast) or that feel like a change are a concern. This type of lump is more likely to be breast cancer, though some benign breast conditions (such as cysts and fibroadenomas) can cause similar changes. See your health care provider if you:

  • Find a new lump or change that feels different from the rest of your breast
  • Find a new lump or change that feels different from your other breast
  • Feel something that is different from what you felt before

If you are unsure whether you should have a lump checked, it is best to see your provider. Although a lump may be nothing to worry about, you will have the peace of mind it has been checked.  

Learn more about benign breast conditions.  

Nipple discharge

Liquid leaking from your nipple (nipple discharge) can be troubling, but it is rarely a sign of breast cancer. Discharge can be your body's natural reaction when the nipple is squeezed. However, the following may be signs of a more serious condition, such as breast cancer:

  • Discharge occurs without squeezing the nipple
  • Discharge occurs in only one breast
  • Discharge has blood in it
  • Discharge is clear (not milky) 

Nipple discharge can also be caused by an infection or other condition that needs medical treatment. For these reasons, if you have any nipple discharge, see your health care provider.

Other changes in the breasts

You may see or feel other changes in your breasts. See your health care provider if you notice any of these warning signs of breast cancer (see pictures) [52-55]:

  • Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
  • New pain in one spot that doesn't go away

Pain in your breasts may be related to your menstrual period. However, if the pain does not go away, don't ignore it. Although pain is rarely a sign of breast cancer, it is best to see your provider.  

Learn more about the warning signs of breast cancer.

Learn more about benign breast conditions.

Learn more about breast cancer diagnosis

Updated 07/30/13

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