What Causes Lumpy Breasts?

A mammogram can help determine whether a woman is at risk for breast cancer.
Breast self-exams should be done monthly to check for lumps or changes.
Article Details
  • Written By: P.S. Jones
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 31 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Under examination, many women find that they have lumpy breasts. This lumpiness is most often due to the normal structure of the breasts. Breasts are made of several types of glands and ligaments, contributing to lumpiness of breast tissues. The lumpiness of female breasts often changes with the woman's menstrual cycle, as a direct result of the changing levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Several diseases and conditions can also cause lumps in the breasts, however.

One common reason for lumpy breasts is a condition called fibrocystic breast disease. This condition is characterized by small, fluid-filled lumps, usually found in the breasts of women between the ages of thirty and fifty. These lumps may be painful but are also generally non-cancerous. The cause of fibrocystic breast disease is unknown, and there is currently no cure. Patients can manage symptoms by monitoring caffeine and fat intake, as well as wearing a well-fitting bra.

Pregnancy and lumpy breasts also go hand in hand. All the hormones that surge through a woman's body during pregnancy can cause textural changes in the woman's breasts. Some of these changes may be due to clogged milk ducts, which are characterized by hard, red, tender lumps on the breasts that can be relieved by warm compresses. After giving birth, breastfeeding mothers can also develop mastitis, a painful breast infection that is also caused by blocked milk ducts. Early medical care combined with antibiotics or acetaminophen can help prevent the patient from developing a breast abscess.

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Lumpy breasts can also be caused by breast cancer. Breast cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells inside the breast tissue, and the resulting tumor can sometimes be felt as a lump. Many causes of breast cancer are unknown, but high risk factors can be obesity, hormones, or tobacco use. If left untreated, breast cancer is usually fatal. When detected early, it can usually be treated through chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or the removal of the affected breast.

Since lumpy breasts are often the first sign of a serious condition, women are urged to complete breast self-exams to detect abnormalities in the breast early. Standing in front of a mirror with her breasts in full view, a woman should check for any new signs of swelling, dimpling, or redness. Next, the woman should use her fingertips to feel the breasts in search of any new lumps or discharge. Each of these processes should be done with the arms in several positions to get a better assessment of the breast. If any new lumps, bumps, or discharges are found, the woman should schedule an appointment with a doctor immediately to determine the causes.

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If you find lumps on your breasts, it is important to make sure that you check for possible breast cancer, to catch it before it spreads. While it probably won't be breast cancer, a woman needs to be extra careful to ensure that it is not the case.

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