What Are the Different Types of Breast Lumps?

Breast self exams can help detect lumps.
Breast lumps may be detected through use of a mammogram.
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  • Written By: Jeri Sullivan
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 25 June 2014
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Breast lumps are caused by infections, injuries, growths or cancer. Breast lumps are formed under the skin and can be benign or malignant. They can also be temporary and go away with home remedies or may be more permanent and require medication or surgery to correct.

The most common infection that causes breast lumps is mastitis. This is caused when breastfeeding mothers develop a crack or cut on the areola. Bacteria gets into the wound and causes a hard, painful lump to form. This can lead to an abscess where pus fills the wound or to cellulitis where the entire area becomes red and infected.

Another infection that causes breast lumps is nipple piercing. If the tools used to pierce are not sterile, bacteria may enter the pierced site. Infection may also occur if the newly pierced nipple is not kept clean until it heals. Treatment for both types of infections typically includes warm compresses and massages to the infected area. If the breast is still infected or if drainage occurs, antibiotics are usually prescribed.

Injuries to the breast may also cause lumps. This may be due to an vehicle accident or a blow to the breast and is caused when the blood vessels of the breast rupture. The resulting hematoma should be treated with cold compresses to reduce the swelling.


Growths are another source of breast lumps. There are fibrocystic breasts, which cause the breast to have several small lumps and are thought to be the result of hormonal changes. A mammogram is usually performed so the doctor will have a baseline to track future breast lumps, but no treatment is necessary unless additional issues arise.

Breast cysts are benign breast lumps filled with fluid and can be tender to the touch. A breast self exam may find these lumps but they will not feel hard or solid. The cysts can change sizes due to hormone fluctuations during menstrual cycles and are not normally removed.

Fibroadenomas are another benign breast lump. However, these are solid, firm growths that can grow quickly. Since a mammogram may not be able to determine if the growth is cancerous, often fibroadenomas are removed and sent to a laboratory for evaluation.

The most serious type of breast lumps are ones caused by breast cancer. This type of breast disease may have no pain but symptoms often include discharge from the nipple and inflammation around the breast. Diagnosis usually requires a breast biopsy, and treatment can include chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.


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