What Does a Breast Cancer Lump Feel Like?

14

Although breast cancer is the most common cancer found in women, most breast lumps are not cancer. In fact, more than 80 percent of them end up being benign. But can a woman tell if a lump is cancer by the way it feels?

in a small percentage of women, a painful breast lump turns out to be cancer.

While the majority of lumps are benign, experts at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers say it is important for women to speak with their doctor if they notice changes to their breasts.

In general, cancerous lumps tend to be more irregular in shape. They may also feel firm or solid, and might be fixed to the tissue in the breast. They are also often painless. However, in a small percentage of women, a painful breast lump turns out to be cancer.

Cysts, which are fluid-filled lumps, are common in the breast and are benign. They form when fluid builds up inside breast glands, and tend to be smooth or round. Fibroadenomas, which are benign tumors made up of glandular and connective breast tissue, are usually smooth and firm or rubbery to the touch. Both of these conditions tend to affect younger women; fibroadenomas are most common in women in their 20s and 30s, and cysts are most common in women under 40.

Despite these common descriptions, it is impossible to tell by touch whether a lump is cancer.

“The key point is that a woman should seek medical attention for any concerning lumps in her breasts,” says Harold Burstein, MD, PhD, a breast oncologist with the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. “Simple imaging techniques such as a mammogram or breast ultrasound can usually provide reassurance that the breast lump is benign, and if necessary, a breast MRI or biopsy can be used to evaluate whether the lump is cancerous.”

Learn more from the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber

Comments Sort By Newest

14 thoughts on “What Does a Breast Cancer Lump Feel Like?

  1. Hi Courtney,

    Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry to hear about your health concerns. Unfortunately, we cannot give out medical advice on this blog or over email. It would be best to discuss your concerns again with your doctor, when you can, making sure that he/she is aware of your family’s history of breast cancer.

    Keep in mind that most breast changes are not related to cancer. In fact, some studies estimate that as many as 80 percent of breast lumps are benign (meaning they are not cancerous). Here is more information on some of the many potential causes of breast pain or lumps: http://www.cancer.org/treatment/understandingyourdiagnosis/examsandtestdescriptions/forwomenfacingabreastbiopsy/breast-biopsy-benign-breast-conditions

    Wishing you all the best.

  2. Im an 18 year old girl and a few weeks ago I noticed a large, moveable lump in my breast. It recently got larger so I went to the doctor and she found a second lump, just the same, but smaller. I don’t have any other symptoms. She told me not to worry but my grandmother died of breast cancer so i am terrified. Is it possible i have breast cancer?

  3. Dear Lauren,

    Thanks for your comment. We’re very sorry to hear of your health concerns. Unfortunately we are unable to give medical advice online, but your doctor should be able to provide you with more information. Should you be interested in coming to Dana-Farber for a second opinion, please call 877-442-3324 or fill out this online appointment request form:
    https://www.dana-farber.org/apps/request-an-appointment.aspx

    We also offer a program called Online Specialty Consults, which allows patients and physicians to confer with our specialists online about second opinions, treatment options, or clinical trials.

    These links provide an overview of the process:
    http://www.dana-farber.org/Partners-Online-Specialty-Consultations.aspx
    https://econsults.partners.org/v2/%28jwewk42ud2zpsevdo4p1l545%29/Tour/1.html

    I hope this is helpful, and we wish you all the best.

    DFCI

  4. Dear Dana-Farber

    I have been to my doctor 2 weeks ago concerning a large, hard lump located right behind my nipple.
    He then referred me to a private hospital where they did an ultrasound and suggested I go for a Tru-Core Breast Nodule Biopsy.
    However, it’s only scheduled to happen next week Thursday (20 October 2016).
    In the time that I’ve been waiting for this exam, my nipple is now completely inverted, the swelling is almost double the size of my other breast, and there is now a redness around my nipple where the lump is. It is extremely painful.

    Should I become concerned about this being cancerous?

    It was not painful in the beginning, neither was it swollen, and the lump was fixed in its place. I was able to move it around and my doctor diagnosed it with being a fibroadenoma, however still sending me for an ultrasound to be sure.

  5. Dear Skyler:
    I’m sorry to hear about your recent health concerns. Unfortunately, we cannot give out medical advice on this blog or over email and it is best to discuss your concerns with your parents and doctor when you can, as he/she can give you the best advice.

    Keep in mind that most breast changes are not related to cancer. In fact, some studies estimate that as many as 80 percent of breast lumps are benign (meaning they are not cancerous). Here is more information on some of the many potential causes of breast pain or lumps: http://www.cancer.org/treatment/understandingyourdiagnosis/examsandtestdescriptions/forwomenfacingabreastbiopsy/breast-biopsy-benign-breast-conditions

    Wishing you all the best.

  6. I’m 14 and I found that I had a small, hard lump in my breast. It is not painful but I’m scared because my great grandma had breast cancer she is still alive but any who my period is late and I’m worrying I had this lump for at least 2 weeks.

  7. Dear Grace:

    Even though many breast lumps are not cancer, it’s certainly understandable that you would be a little scared. We can’t give out specific clinical advice over the blog, so we can’t say whether waiting til the first of the year is advised or not. That’s something you should definitely speak to your doctor about.

  8. Hi, I was doing a routine, almost out of habit self exam when I detected a small, hard, seems to be fixed in place pebble type of lump that has never been there. I know, I know, and I WILL call my Dr., of course. It’s Sunday, so it won’t be today.
    I guess my question is it possible it isn’t cancer? I’m understandably a little scared.
    IF I can live with the fear and uncertainty for that long, will waiting til after the 1st of the year hurt the situation that badly?
    I know early detection is key, I get that, however I have really awful insurance right now, but I have the opportunity each year to change it, starting each Jan. 1st.
    It’s only a couple of months, I’m scared to do the wrong thing, both health and financial-wise.

  9. Dear Zeh,

    We’re sorry to hear of your breast pain. We recommend you see your doctor about your pain, and he or she can advise you on any tests that may help determine what’s causing it.

    We wish you the best.
    DFCI

  10. Dear Natasha,

    We’re sorry to hear of your breast pain. We recommend you see your doctor about your pain, and he or she can advise you on any tests that may help determine what’s causing it.

    We wish you the best.
    DFCI

  11. Hi.I am 22.I have pain in both my breast and My lumps are so painfull when I touch them.Sometimes i feel something reaping of in my breast.

  12. Dear Aminur —

    Thank you for your comment. If the patient is able to come to Boston to meet with our treatment team, please call 877-442-3324 or fill out this online appointment request form:
    https://www.dana-farber.org/apps/request-an-appointment.aspx

    If the patient is not able to travel to Boston, Dana-Farber offers a program called Online Specialty Consults, which allows patients and physicians to confer with our specialists online about second opinions, treatment options, or clinical trials.

    The patient will need to involve his/her local physician, who will register with the service and complete a patient history. One of our specialists, who will be chosen depending on the patient’s particular medical background, will review the patient’s case and then send a consultation report back to the patient’s physician.

    These links provide an overview of the process:
    http://www.dana-farber.org/Partners-Online-Specialty-Consultations.aspx
    https://econsults.partners.org/v2/%28jwewk42ud2zpsevdo4p1l545%29/Tour/1.html

    I hope this is helpful! Wishing you all the best.

  13. Do u have any online media to contact with you easily please?? I have my serious patient about to discuss with you.

  14. Hi, I was doing a routine, almost out of habit self exam when I detected a small, hard, seems to be fixed in place pebble type of lump that has never been there. I know, I know, and I WILL call my Dr., of course. It’s Sunday, so it won’t be today.
    I guess my question is it possible it isn’t cancer? I’m understandably a little scared.
    IF I can live with the fear and uncertainty for that long, will waiting til after the 1st of the year hurt the situation that badly?
    I know early detection is key, I get that, however I have really awful insurance right now, but I have the opportunity each year to change it, starting each Jan. 1st.
    It’s only a couple of months, I’m scared to do the wrong thing, both health and financial-wise.

  15. Dear Dana-Farber

    I have been to my doctor 2 weeks ago concerning a large, hard lump located right behind my nipple.
    He then referred me to a private hospital where they did an ultrasound and suggested I go for a Tru-Core Breast Nodule Biopsy.
    However, it’s only scheduled to happen next week Thursday (20 October 2016).
    In the time that I’ve been waiting for this exam, my nipple is now completely inverted, the swelling is almost double the size of my other breast, and there is now a redness around my nipple where the lump is. It is extremely painful.

    Should I become concerned about this being cancerous?

    It was not painful in the beginning, neither was it swollen, and the lump was fixed in its place. I was able to move it around and my doctor diagnosed it with being a fibroadenoma, however still sending me for an ultrasound to be sure.

  16. Hi.I am 22.I have pain in both my breast and My lumps are so painfull when I touch them.Sometimes i feel something reaping of in my breast.

  17. I’m 14 and I found that I had a small, hard lump in my breast. It is not painful but I’m scared because my great grandma had breast cancer she is still alive but any who my period is late and I’m worrying I had this lump for at least 2 weeks.

  18. Im an 18 year old girl and a few weeks ago I noticed a large, moveable lump in my breast. It recently got larger so I went to the doctor and she found a second lump, just the same, but smaller. I don’t have any other symptoms. She told me not to worry but my grandmother died of breast cancer so i am terrified. Is it possible i have breast cancer?

  19. Do u have any online media to contact with you easily please?? I have my serious patient about to discuss with you.

  20. Dear Skyler:
    I’m sorry to hear about your recent health concerns. Unfortunately, we cannot give out medical advice on this blog or over email and it is best to discuss your concerns with your parents and doctor when you can, as he/she can give you the best advice.

    Keep in mind that most breast changes are not related to cancer. In fact, some studies estimate that as many as 80 percent of breast lumps are benign (meaning they are not cancerous). Here is more information on some of the many potential causes of breast pain or lumps: http://www.cancer.org/treatment/understandingyourdiagnosis/examsandtestdescriptions/forwomenfacingabreastbiopsy/breast-biopsy-benign-breast-conditions

    Wishing you all the best.

  21. Dear Aminur —

    Thank you for your comment. If the patient is able to come to Boston to meet with our treatment team, please call 877-442-3324 or fill out this online appointment request form:
    https://www.dana-farber.org/apps/request-an-appointment.aspx

    If the patient is not able to travel to Boston, Dana-Farber offers a program called Online Specialty Consults, which allows patients and physicians to confer with our specialists online about second opinions, treatment options, or clinical trials.

    The patient will need to involve his/her local physician, who will register with the service and complete a patient history. One of our specialists, who will be chosen depending on the patient’s particular medical background, will review the patient’s case and then send a consultation report back to the patient’s physician.

    These links provide an overview of the process:
    http://www.dana-farber.org/Partners-Online-Specialty-Consultations.aspx
    https://econsults.partners.org/v2/%28jwewk42ud2zpsevdo4p1l545%29/Tour/1.html

    I hope this is helpful! Wishing you all the best.

  22. Dear Natasha,

    We’re sorry to hear of your breast pain. We recommend you see your doctor about your pain, and he or she can advise you on any tests that may help determine what’s causing it.

    We wish you the best.
    DFCI

  23. Dear Grace:

    Even though many breast lumps are not cancer, it’s certainly understandable that you would be a little scared. We can’t give out specific clinical advice over the blog, so we can’t say whether waiting til the first of the year is advised or not. That’s something you should definitely speak to your doctor about.

  24. Hi Courtney,

    Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry to hear about your health concerns. Unfortunately, we cannot give out medical advice on this blog or over email. It would be best to discuss your concerns again with your doctor, when you can, making sure that he/she is aware of your family’s history of breast cancer.

    Keep in mind that most breast changes are not related to cancer. In fact, some studies estimate that as many as 80 percent of breast lumps are benign (meaning they are not cancerous). Here is more information on some of the many potential causes of breast pain or lumps: http://www.cancer.org/treatment/understandingyourdiagnosis/examsandtestdescriptions/forwomenfacingabreastbiopsy/breast-biopsy-benign-breast-conditions

    Wishing you all the best.

  25. Dear Zeh,

    We’re sorry to hear of your breast pain. We recommend you see your doctor about your pain, and he or she can advise you on any tests that may help determine what’s causing it.

    We wish you the best.
    DFCI

  26. Dear Lauren,

    Thanks for your comment. We’re very sorry to hear of your health concerns. Unfortunately we are unable to give medical advice online, but your doctor should be able to provide you with more information. Should you be interested in coming to Dana-Farber for a second opinion, please call 877-442-3324 or fill out this online appointment request form:
    https://www.dana-farber.org/apps/request-an-appointment.aspx

    We also offer a program called Online Specialty Consults, which allows patients and physicians to confer with our specialists online about second opinions, treatment options, or clinical trials.

    These links provide an overview of the process:
    http://www.dana-farber.org/Partners-Online-Specialty-Consultations.aspx
    https://econsults.partners.org/v2/%28jwewk42ud2zpsevdo4p1l545%29/Tour/1.html

    I hope this is helpful, and we wish you all the best.

    DFCI

Comments are closed.

Make An Appointment

For adults: 877-960-1562

Quick access: Appointments as soon as the next day for new adult patients

For children: 888-733-4662

All content in these blogs is provided by independent writers and does not represent the opinions or advice of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute or its partners.

Latest Tweets

Dana-Farber @danafarber
1 in 5 Americans will develop #skincancer at some point in their lifetime. Do you know the signs?… https://t.co/gOk6id2IrX
Dana-Farber @danafarber
Help support adolescent and young adult cancer legislation in Congress! Take action now: https://t.co/czzIGnLw5T
Dana-Farber @danafarber
6 months after Connie found out she had brain cancer, her son Trevor, 23, was diagnosed too. Read more:… https://t.co/l1HIeVX6Jj

Republish our posts on your blog

Interested in sharing one of our stories on your blog? Feel free to republish this content! We just ask that you credit Dana-Farber, link to the original article, and refrain from making edits that change the original context. Questions? Email the editors at insight_blog@dfci.harvard.edu.