Dr Dulcy Rakumakoe
4 minute read
25 Apr 2022
12:40 pm

Keep abreast of lumps

Dr Dulcy Rakumakoe

Serious signs of breast cancer include change in skin’s feel, nipple oozing clear fluid.

Picture: iStock

Finding a lump in your breast can be very scary. But not all lumps indicate cancer. Benign breast conditions can occur in both women and men. Breast tissue changes during a woman’s life. It is sensitive to changing hormone levels during the menstrual cycle.

If you notice any breast changes, you should go to your doctor or clinic right away to get checked, but there is no need to panic. Most breast lumps are benign. Benign breast lumps usually have smooth edges and can be moved around when you touch them. They are usually found in both breasts. There are a number of common causes of breast lumps, including normal changes in breast tissue, breast infection or injury and medicines that may cause lumps or breast pain.

Many benign breast conditions mimic the symptoms of breast cancer and need tests (and sometimes a biopsy) for diagnosis. Therefore, please do see your doctor. If there is fluid coming out of your nipple, your doctor will collect a sample and check for cancer cells. He may also do a mammogram or ultrasound to see if the lump is solid or filled with fluid.

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Your doctor may order a biopsy. He will take a tiny sample of the lump with a needle or small cut and send it to a laboratory. A few factors can increase the risk of benign breast conditions, including menopausal hormone therapy, oral contraceptive use, a family history of breast cancer or benign breast conditions. Some lifestyle factors during the teen years may also affect the risk of benign breast conditions in adulthood.

For example, drinking alcohol and smoking during teen years may increase the risk of benign breast conditions.

How to make sure you are cancer-free:

It is recommended that one gets a clinical breast exam every one to three years starting at 20. As you get older it is time for regular mammograms. The American Cancer Society recommends getting one every year once you turn 45. Others say every two years from 50 to 74. If you’re at high risk for breast cancer, you should get a mammogram every year.


These are the most common benign tumours.

They are solid, round, rubbery lumps that move freely and are usually painless. Fibroadenomas happen when your body forms extra milk-making glands. They can be removed surgically.

Fibrocystic changes

These changes are the most common cause of benign breast lumps in women ages 35 to 50. Women with fibrocystic breasts usually get lumps in both breasts that increase in size and tenderness just before their period. They sometimes have nipple discharge as well. The lumps subside after their period.

Common causes of breast lumps

Simple cysts

Simple cysts are fluid-filled sacs that usually happen in both breasts. If the lump is a cyst, they can suck out the fluid and it will collapse.

Picture: iStock

Intraductal papillomas

These are small, wart-like growths in the lining of the mammary duct near the nipple. They usually affect women from 45 to 50. They can cause bleeding from the nipple. Treatment is usually surgical removal.

Traumatic fat necrosis

This happens when there is an injury to the breast. It causes fat to form in lumps that are generally round, firm, hard and painless. It can be hard to tell if a lump from traumatic fat necro- sis is that or something else until your doctor does a biopsy. These usually don’t need to be treated.

Breast lumps in men

Men can have tender breast enlargement, often with a lump under the nipple. This non-cancerous condition is called gynecomastia.

READ NEXT: Breast cancer: Health must be monitored regularly for over-40s


Mastitis is caused by bacteria that get into the mammary ducts through the nipple. Sometimes your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic.

Sclerosing adenosis

Sclerosing adenosis is made up of small breast lumps caused by enlarged lobules. A biopsy may be needed to rule out breast cancer.

Breast changes to seriously worry about

  • An area that is different from any other on either breast.
  • A lump or thickening in or near the breast or underarm that persists through the menstrual cycle.
  • A change in the size, shape, or contour of the breast.
  • A lump that is growing.
  • A marble-like area under the skin.
  • A change in the feel of the skin on the breast or nipple.
  • Clear or bloody fluid coming out of the nipple.
  • Red skin on the breast or nipple.
  • Painful breast lumps.