Breast lump or breast changes: Early evaluation is essential
A breast lump or breast changes deserve medical attention. Know what to expect during a clinical breast exam — and what happens when a breast lump or change needs more evaluation.
By Mayo Clinic Staff

Finding a breast lump or other change in a breast might cause worry about breast cancer.

That's understandable. But breast lumps are common. Most often they're noncancerous (benign), particularly in younger women. Still, it's important to have any breast lump evaluated by a health care provider, especially if it's new or if one breast feels different from the other breast.

How breast tissue feels

Breasts contain tissues of different textures, including fat, glands and connective tissue. Some breast-related symptoms, such as tenderness or lumpiness, change with the menstrual cycle. Lumps during this time might be caused by extra fluid in the breasts. Breast tissue also changes during pregnancy and menopause and while taking hormones.

When to consult a health care provider

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Nipple changes


Nipple changes

Nipple changes

Breast and nipple changes can be a sign of breast cancer. Make an appointment with your health care provider if you notice anything unusual.

Being familiar with how breasts usually feel makes it easier to detect when there's a change.

Reasons to consult a health care provider include:

Finding a new breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue or the other breast
Noticing a change in the size, shape or appearance of a breast
Having breast pain that doesn't go away after the next period
Noticing skin changes on a breast, such as itchiness, redness, scaling, dimpling or puckering
Having a newly inverted nipple
Noticing nipple discharge

What to expect during a clinical breast exam

Evaluation of a breast lump typically begins with a clinical breast exam. During this exam, a health care provider will likely:

Ask about symptoms and risk factors for breast cancer or benign breast conditions
Examine the breasts and lymph nodes in the armpit, feeling for lumps or any other differences
Examine the skin on the breasts
Check for nipple problems, such as inversion or discharge

If the care provider finds a breast lump or other area of concern, you'll likely need testing.