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Benign Breast Lumps vs. Cancerous Breast Lumps | Ask the Expert
Most <a href="https://www.mylifestages.org/health/breast/breast_self_exam.page">breast lumps</a> are benign cysts, particularly in younger women. Size and tenderness may vary with the menstrual cycle. When lumps are tender, they are more likely benign, but about 10% of breast cancers do cause breast pain or tenderness. Cancers tend to feel much harder than benign cysts and fibroadenomas. Both benign and malignant masses can be rounded and mobile. Only when cancers are quite advanced are they fixed to skin or underlying chest wall, and not moveable. Any new, persistent, or changing lump in your breast should be evaluated by your physician. Sometimes <a href="https://www.mylifestages.org/medicallibrary/MedLibrary.page?medlib=1&section=healthinfo&page=article&sgml_id=hw214210">mammograms</a> and <a href="https://www.mylifestages.org/health/breast/breast_ultrasound.page">ultrasound</a> can differentiate between benign and malignant breast masses. But, often just a needle aspiration of the lump can quickly prove that it is just a cyst when fluid drains. The best approach is to get regular <a href="https://www.mylifestages.org/health/breast/breast_cancer_screening.page">screening mammograms</a> on a schedule defined by the American Cancer Society and other groups, starting early if there is a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors. With very dense breasts that are difficult to evaluate with exam and mammogram, targeted or 3D ultrasound may be added.
Breast Health,

Question:

What does a breast cancer lump feel like? I heard the lumps that move when touched aren't as much of a concern.

Answer:

Michael Forrest, M.D.Michael Forrest, M.D.Radiation OncologyEden Medical Center
Expert
Michael Forrest, M.D.Radiation OncologyEden Medical Center

Dr. Forrest's practice was the first in the East Bay to offer patients technical advances in radiation. His practice provides 3D conformal radiation, image-guided intensity modulated radiation therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery, and respiratory-gated radiation. These factors give his female patients with breast, gynecologic, and other common cancers the best possible care and cure with the fewest side effects.

Most breast lumps are benign cysts, particularly in younger women. Size and tenderness may vary with the menstrual cycle. When lumps are tender, they are more likely benign, but about 10% of breast cancers do cause breast pain or tenderness.

Cancers tend to feel much harder than benign cysts and fibroadenomas. Both benign and malignant masses can be rounded and mobile. Only when cancers are quite advanced are they fixed to skin or underlying chest wall, and not moveable.

Any new, persistent, or changing lump in your breast should be evaluated by your physician. Sometimes mammograms and ultrasound can differentiate between benign and malignant breast masses. But, often just a needle aspiration of the lump can quickly prove that it is just a cyst when fluid drains.

The best approach is to get regular screening mammograms on a schedule defined by the American Cancer Society and other groups, starting early if there is a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors. With very dense breasts that are difficult to evaluate with exam and mammogram, targeted or 3D ultrasound may be added.

Read more:
- Breast self exam: what to look for
- Breast health 101
- Breast cancer articles, videos, and other resources

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