The presence of lumps in the breast points to changes in the breast tissue. These changes are linked with development of breasts (begins when a girl hits puberty) and the hormonal alterations that accompany sexual maturation. Although breasts as organs are devoid of any muscles, muscles do exist beneath them, over the ribs. This may sometimes cause the breast to feel lumpy. In addition, thin women with smaller breasts tend to observe such lumps more than others.
Generally, women become aware of lumps in the breast during the course of a routine (monthly) breast self-exam. It has been seen that most breast lumps are in fact harmless. However, it becomes essential to understand the difference between innocuous and harmful breast lumps and seek timely care.
Breast lumps can have various causes:
- Wounds (rupture of blood vessels, damage of fat cells and other injuries)
- Infections (known as mastitis is most common in lactating mothers, in case of a piercing on the nipple and can also take the form of accumulation of pus)
- Benign growths
The following are the benign forms of lumps in the breast:
- Fibroadenomas are common, non cancerous changes in the breast. These growths are mostly found to crop up in women aged between 30-35 years. These are solid, rigid tumors which generally do not cause pain but at times may be slightly sore.
- Breast cysts are tissue sacs which are filled with a benign fluid. This causes the breast lump to feel soft and spongy. It should be noted that the size of a breast cyst can transform as per as the woman’s menstrual cycle. These are mostly known to affect women over 35 years of age.
- Fibrocystic changes are abnormalities in the breast in the form of lumps, a grainy appearance and pain in the breasts. These changes are linked to a woman’s tendency to be adversely affected by hormone variations.
When the lump in the breast in found to be malignant, it will have an irregular shape and will have a very stiff feel to it. Breast cancer can afflict women of all ages, once they are pubescent and is generally associated with breast lumps devoid of pain, a discharge from the nipples, and an inflammation of the skin of the breast.
In case of mastitis in a woman who is breastfeeding the line of treatment is most often a course of antibiotics and using heat treatment. A fibroadenoma can be removed with the help of a lumpectomy, or a laser ablation. If the doctor has aspersions about the fibroadenoma, a biopsy should be done. When breast cysts are found a fine needle aspiration is done with a syringe which gets rid of the fluid and prevents a recurrence. In case of breast cancer, the lump can be dealt with through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The apt treatment varies from case to case.
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