Lumpy breasts

Dear Alice,

I've been reading through your archives, but none have really helped me. I have lumps in my breasts that are there even when I'm not in my menstrual cycle. They're really big... kind of. And they're bugging me. What should I do?

— Worried

Dear Worried,

The benefit of a woman doing regular breast self-exams is not only to know her "normal" body, the terrain that is uniquely hers, but also to become so familiar as to be able to identify and document any change(s). Since you've noticed something that concerns you, this is the right time to see your health care provider to have your breasts examined. At your appointment, you can expect to give information to your provider, including:

  • The date of your last period
  • When you first noticed the lump(s)
  • Whether the lump has grown larger or smaller since you first discovered it
  • Whether you notice a change in the number of lumps you can feel
  • Whether you or your family have a history of breast problems
  • Whether you've noticed any nipple discharge
  • Whether you're on any medication

It's normal for women's breasts to have an uneven consistency. However, distinct and/or new lumps or growths in or on the breast can be physically uncomfortable and/or psychologically upsetting, even frightening. Women often associate breast lumps with cancer, so it's important to remember that the majority of breast growths turn out to be benign (non-cancerous).

Monthly breast self-exams are essential to keep breasts healthy, and noticing new growths or lumps is a good reason to schedule an appointment with a health care provider. The Internet can be a good source of general information about breast health, allowing people to make informed decisions about their health, but you will not be able to get specific answers or advice about your breasts without seeing a health care provider.

It’s great that you have already been searching the archives, continue to do so to learn more about breast growths in general, and check out the related Q&As. Schedule an appointment with your health care provider; knowing the cause and any potential effects of the lumps in your breasts can give you some peace of mind.

Last updated May 21, 2015
Originally published Feb 06, 2004

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