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Breast lumps or changes are a common health worry for most women. Women may have many kinds of breast lumps and other breast changes throughout their lives, including changes that occur with menstrual periods, pregnancy, and aging. Most breast lumps and breast changes are normal.
See a picture of the breast anatomy .
Breast changes in young girls
Breast development is the first sign of puberty in young girls. Usually, breasts begin as small, tender bumps under one or both nipples that will get bigger over the next few years. It is not unusual for one breast to be larger than the other or for one side to develop before the other. A girl may worry that a lump under the nipple is abnormal or a sign of a serious medical problem when it is a part of normal breast development.
Noncancerous breast changes
Common, noncancerous (benign) breast changes include:
Breast changes that need follow-up
Many women with breast pain or breast lumps worry about breast cancer.
The earlier breast cancer is detected, the more easily and successfully it can be treated.
There are two common methods of early detection:
Breast self-examination (BSE) involves checking your breasts for lumps or changes while standing and lying in different positions and while looking at your breasts in a mirror. Once you know what your breasts normally look and feel like, any new lump or change in appearance should be evaluated by a doctor. Most breast problems or changes are not caused by cancer. But BSE should not be used in place of clinical breast examination and mammography. Studies have not shown that BSE alone reduces the number of deaths from breast cancer.
Early breast cancer is often seen on a mammogram before there are any symptoms. The most common symptom of breast cancer is a painless lump. But sometimes painful lumps are cancerous. Other symptoms of breast cancer include:
Breast changes in boys
In men, enlargement of male breast tissue (gynecomastia) is a noncancerous breast change. Breast buds are common in teenage boys during puberty. The buds may last up to 2 years, but they tend to go away within the first year. Breast buds develop because of rapid changes in hormone levels.
Treatment of a breast problem depends on the cause of the problem.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Breast self-exams are a simple way for you to learn what your breasts normally feel like. During a breast self-exam, you examine your own breasts to look and feel for changes from one month to the next. You will learn how your breasts feel and what is normal for you so that you can spot any changes early. For more information about how to do a breast self-exam, see the topic Breast Self-Examination.
If you have pain or a fever from a breast problem or injury, you can try nonprescription medicines for your symptoms.
Alternative medicines or supplements may help relieve breast tenderness, discomfort, or pain (mastalgia). As with all alternative medicines and supplements, be sure to follow the directions on the label. Do not exceed the maximum recommended dose. If you are or could be pregnant, talk with your doctor before taking any medicine or supplement.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
To prevent breast tenderness, discomfort, or pain (mastalgia), follow these tips:
To prevent nipple irritation during exercise:
Preparing For Your Appointment
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
Last Revised: September 9, 2011
Goyal A (2011). Breast pain, search date May 2010. BMJ Clinical Evidence. Available online: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
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