Your Guide to Breast Lumps

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jul 08, 2013

Breast lumps are a common condition and have a number of different causes. While most lumps are not breast cancer, any unusual changes to the breasts should be checked by a GP as soon as possible.

a woman in dillemaHere is a guide that you can refer while checking for any changes in your breasts.

NHS Choices lays down different kinds of breast lumps and their symptoms. They are:


  • Fibrocystic breast disease, also known as fibroadenosis, is a term used to describe a group of benign conditions that affect the breast. The symptoms of fibroadenosis include:
  • Breast pain (mastalgia)
  • Increase in breast size
  • Lumpiness of the breast (nodularity), particularly just before or during a period
  • Fibroadenosis can develop in one or both breasts, or can affect just part of one breast. The symptoms can also vary significantly between women, with some women finding them slightly annoying and others finding them very painful. The pain and lumpiness will usually disappear after your period.
  • The cause of fibroadenosis is not well understood. However, it may be the result of the breast tissue responding abnormally to hormonal changes that occur with the menstrual cycle.


  • A fibroadenoma is a smooth, well-rounded solid lump that sometimes develops outside the milk ducts. Milk ducts are the tiny tubes in the breast that carry milk.
  • Fibroadenomas are made up of fibrous and glandular tissue, which has a rubber-like texture and moves easily when touched.
  • A fibroadenoma will sometimes disappear, but it can remain and grow larger, particularly during pregnancy.

Breast cyst-

  • A breast cyst is a fluid-filled sac that develops within the breast tissue and may feel like a soft grape. Breast cysts are common and normal. Cysts form as a natural part of the ageing of breast tissue and are most commonly found in women aged 35-50 years old.
  • Cysts vary in size. Some can be tiny, while others can grow to several centimetres in diameter. Single or multiple cysts can occur in one or both breasts.
  • Cysts often do not cause any symptoms, although some women may experience pain, particularly if the cyst increases in size during the menstrual cycle. They do not significantly increase the risk of breast cancer developing.

Breast abscesses-

  • A breast abscess is a painful collection of pus that forms under the skin of the breast. It can also cause:
  • A high temperature (fever) of 38°C (100.4°F) or above
  • Inflammation (redness and swelling)
  • A benign (non-cancerous) breast lump and breast pain can be caused by several different conditions.

A benign (non-cancerous) breast lump and breast pain can be caused by several different conditions.

These include the following:

  • A cyst (fluid-filled lump) – most common in pre-menopausal women (women who are still having periods) and those undergoing hormone replacement therapy
  • A fibroadenoma – a small lump in the breast more common in young women, for instance those in their twenties
  • Mastitis (inflammation of the breast) – this can be either breastfeeding mastitis or non-breastfeeding mastitis
  • Nipple discharge (galactorrhoea)
  • Dilated milk ducts – milk ducts are tiny tubes in the breast that carry milk
  • Trauma to the breast due to injury
  • Scarring of the breast from past surgical procedures
  • Fibrocystic breast disease (fibroadenosis) – a benign growth in the breast that causes lumpiness and tenderness, most common in pre-menopausal women
  • Fat necrosis – a hard, irregular lump often caused by trauma or bruising to the breast, for example, following breast reduction surgery
  • A lipoma – a benign fatty growth that causes a lump
  • A breast abscess – a painful collection of pus under the skin
  • An intraductal papilloma – a benign growth in a milk duct, which may also cause nipple discharge
  • A haematoma (blood clot)
  • Breast pain can also sometimes be caused by your menstrual cycle. This is known as cyclical breast pain. Breast pain not associated with your menstrual cycle is sometimes referred to as non-cyclical breast pain.


Hormonal changes are the most common cause of benign breast lumps. Hormones are chemicals produced by the body and have a wide range of effects. Sometimes changes in the levels of hormones in your body can cause your breasts to feel lumpy or swollen.

Hormonal changes can occur:

  • In teenagers.
  • During the monthly menstrual cycle.
  • During the menopause, which is when a woman’s periods stop.
  • If you take the oral contraceptive pill, which contains artificial versions of female hormones.
  • If you take HRT, which is treatment to replace female hormones a woman’s body is no longer producing because of the menopause.

Read more articles on Breast Cancer.

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