Dear Doctor, I found a lump… what next?

The dreaded breast lump…

Imagine, you are in the shower, it’s a normal day, on with the shower gel and then oh! Hang on! That feels like a lump. You start to panic a little… How long has it been there? You’re not sure because you don’t check regularly… You don’t want to feel it properly because you don’t want to know, but it’s definitely a lump… What on earth does it mean?!

Before panic really does set in, you will be pleased to hear that there are lots of causes of breast lumps and not all of them are cancer.

When my friend first noticed her lump, it was a small lump just to the side of her left nipple. Initially we thought nothing of it but we said to get it checked out, just to be on the safe side. Luckily she got an appointment the next day with her GP and he referred her to the breast clinic, but again saying ahh it’s probably nothing sinister but let’s be sure. By the next week it had grown a little more and the nipple had started to invert, as if something was pulling it in. Week on week the lump changed slightly, one week it was becoming harder and bigger, the next week it felt smaller and softer. It was quite unpredictable but I guess the main thing was that it was changing and quickly.

Today’s post is less emotional and more informative. Let’s talk about examining breasts, what lumps could really be and what signs could mean cancer.

How do you examine your own breasts?

It’s not as difficult as you might think. It doesn’t matter what size your breasts are, all breasts are equal in this game. To examine your breasts you are going to want to look and feel! It is quick to do, painless and you should aim to do it at least once a month. If you aren’t sure how to do it, click here to read my easy to follow guide on how to examine your own breasts.

What to do if you feel a lump?

For any breast or armpit lumps, you should go to see your doctor. GPs do breast exams for people all the time, don’t feel embarrassed, they are happy to check things over and it really is a case of the earlier the better.

Obviously, lumps will feel different depending on what the lump is but it can be hard to differentiate just by feeling. Some causes for a lump include: fibroadenomas (fatty lumps), cysts (fluid filled), abscesses (infected lumps) and cancer.

More reassuring features are, small, smooth lumps, painful lumps or lumps that feel like they move around a bit, and no other skin or nipple changes.

Things to watch out for are hard, irregular feeling lumps, lumps that do not move easily, painless lumps and lumps with nipple or skin changes.

Things that may put you at a higher risk of breast cancer include,

  • Having breast cancer in the past
  • A family history of breast cancer
  • No children or children after 30
  • Never breast feeding
  • Starting periods young or going through menopause late
  • Using the combined contraceptive pill or HRT

What will happen next?

Once you see your doctor, they will be able to give you a better idea about what the lump is. If it seems to be an infection they may start antibiotics. Sometimes they may advise to watch it over the next month and come back for a review. Usually, to be sure it isn’t a cancer, they will refer you to a breast clinic and get the breast doctors to have a look. Read about what happens at a breast lump hospital appointment here.

The take home message…

The most important thing here is finding the lump as soon as possible. It is really important to know your body, check regularly and get seen soon if you ever notice a lump. If the lump is nothing to worry about, then that is fine. If it does turn out to be something serious like cancer, at least you won’t have wasted any precious time!

Click here to read my friend’s experience of finding a breast lump. 

Click here to read my easy to follow guide on how to examine your own breasts.

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