Breast Lumps and Pain (cont.)
Breast Lumps and Pain Symptoms
- Breast lump: Although alarming when you find one, most breast lumps are not cancer.
- Breast pain: Most commonly associated with fibrocystic changes, pain may occur in both breasts, though one may be more painful than the other. With fibrocystic changes, the pain occurs about a week before your menstrual period. The pain usually goes away gradually with the onset of your period.
- Cyclic breast pain is typically most severe before your period and gets better during your period.
- It is usually described as bilateral (in both breasts), in the upper outer areas of your breast, and is often associated with lumpiness.
- Women tend to describe this pain as dull, aching, heavy, or sore, and it can radiate to your armpit or even down your arm.
- The intensity of pain can vary widely with the range of severity from mild to severe enough to limit clothing selections,sleep positions, or hugging.
- Noncyclic breast pain is typically unilateral (only on 1 side) with no relationship to your menstrual cycle.
- This pain may be constant or on and off and irregular. It is described as a sharp, stabbing, burning pain that appears to be right below the area around your nipple.
- If it is localized and persistent, it may be due to the presence of a fibroadenoma or cyst. But other more serious causes must be ruled out.
- Nipple discharge: May occur from an infection, or from cancer, or from very small tumors within a part of the brain called the pituitary gland, which influences secretions from the breast. In cases of infection, the discharge is usually brown or greenish. The color and characteristic of nipple discharge, however, cannot be used reliably as an indicator for, or against, the diagnosis of cancer. Your health care professional can make this assessment.
- Skin changes: In cancer there is fibrosis (scarring) of underlying breast structures (small ligaments) causing retraction (pulling) of the breast that can lead to dimpling of the skin or flattened or deviated nipples. Cancer may block up the drainage (lymphatics) of the breast, and your skin may take on the appearance of the peel of an orange. Take these symptoms very seriously and see your health care professional If they occur.
- Mastitis: Such breast infections may cause pain, redness, and warmth of the breast along with these symptoms:
- Tenderness and swelling
- Body aches
- Breast engorgement
- Fever and chills
- Abscess: Sometimes a breast abscess can complicate mastitis. Harmless, noncancerous masses such as abscesses are more often tender and frequently feel mobile beneath the skin. The edge of the mass is usually regular and well defined. Signs and symptoms that this more serious infection has occurred include the following:
- Tender lump in the breast that does not get smaller after breastfeeding a newborn (If the abscess is deep in the breast, you may not be able to feel it.)
- Pus draining from the nipple
- Persistent fever and no improvement of symptoms within 48 to 72 hours of treatment
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/4/2015
M Ruby Alvi, MD, CCFP, MHSc
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