Common Causes Of Painful Breast Lumps

Common Causes Of Painful Breast Lumps Breast changes are common in women. There may be lumps, swellings or just pain in the breast. Breast changes are usually noticed from puberty onwards. Some of these are harmless while some point towards some deeper pathology. Breast lumps are usually due to infections, injuries, non cancerous growths or due to cancer. A menstruating women often experiences various types of breast changes and pain, sometimes extending throughout her life.

Breast Structure

The breast is composed of several glands and ducts. There are no muscles within the breasts. The mammary glands produce milk and the lactiferous ducts carry the milk to the nipples. The lactiferous ducts extend from the nipple to the axilla. From puberty onwards the fat deposits increase in the breast.

Causes of Breast lumps

The breast lumps are caused due to infections, injuries, non cancerous growths or due to cancer.


Mastitis is the inflammation of breast tissues and is usually seen in breast feeding women. The cracks on the nipples in such women carry the bacteria to the tissues within and cause inflammation. If the mastitis is not carefully attended to it can lead to breast abscess, which is another cause for breast lump.

Body piercing in the nipple area too can cause painful breast lumps due to infection. Both mastitis and abscess are painful. In the case of abscess, a drainage will have to be done. There is a chance for recurrence as well.


Common Causes Of Painful Breast Lumps


During injury to the breast tissues, the tiny blood vessels can break leading to haematoma, which can be felt as a lump in the breast. Injuries also cause fat necrosis of the breast which is another cause for lump due to injury.

Non Cancerous Growths

Normal hormonal fluctuations can cause non cancerous growths in the breast especially seen during menses. These appear and disappear with menstrual cycle. Likewise lumps can be found in the breasts during puberty or menopause. Fibroadenomas, breast cysts etc. are examples of non cancerous breast lumps. Fibrocystic breast changes also appear as growths in breast which vary with hormonal fluctuation.

Breast Cancer

A painful breast lump is often feared, because you doubt if it could be breast cancer. The truth is most of the breast cancers are painless. But there are rare types which present themselves as painful breast lumps. There are some other symptoms to diagnose breast cancer like nipple discharge, skin changes on the breast etc.

Also Read

Common Breast Diseases And Their Symptoms
The Symptoms Of A Breast Abscess
Types And Causes Of Breast Calcifications
Symptoms And Stages Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Causes And Treatment Of Breast Lesions

Evaluation of a Breast Lump

Self Breast Exam

The breast lumps are best detected during a self exam. But the method is not perfect and many a lumps may go unnoticed during self exam. It should be carried out routinely. Stand in front of the mirror. Lookout for any signs of dimpling , redness or swelling.

Look for the same in various positions like hands behind the head, hands on hips etc. Palpate the breast starting from the nipple. Move in concentric circles till the axilla. Gently squeeze the nipple for signs of discharge. Finally do a self exam in the lying down position.

Laboratory Investigations


Common Causes Of Painful Breast Lumps


A women with breast lump need to be evaluated with mammogram. But mammogram gives results only in 90% cases. The rest 10% is missed by mammogram.


The lump need to be biopsied. A piece of the tissue is taken for biopsy to evaluate what type of cells are present and to detect the possible chance of a cancer.


Ultrasound examination will distinguish if the cells of the lump is a cyst or a solid mass.


MRI is a very sensitive test. It can detect the presence of a cancerous area. It is usually carried out if the results of mammogram and ultrasound cannot come to a conclusion.

When to Worry and What to do?

You need not panic at the sight of a breast lump. As described all lumps are not cancerous. If you are breast feeding the chances are that the lump is due to mastitis or breast abscess. If you are menstruating, then there are chance that you will get benign growths due to hormonal changes.

If there is a recent history of trauma, then the lump is probably due to the injury. Then there are some people whose breasts always have irregular growths. Do mammogram and self exam regularly. Check for mobility of lumps. Breast cancer is mostly fixed, you can’t move it around during a self exam. For cancer there are often other signs like skin changes, nipple discharge etc. Cysts and fibroadenomas are mobile. When you notice a breast lump it is better to get evaluated by your doctor, so that the treatment can be started at the earliest.

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