I have a lump in my breast. Does that mean I have cancer?

breeast-exam-shower-webAre all breast lumps cancer? No. Lumps in your breast are very common and very few of them are caused by breast cancer.

Tumour -A tumour is a lump of cells, it can be benign or malignant

Benign – A lump of cells that can NOT grow or spread (most benign tumour are not life-threatening, the exception being some types of brain tumour).

Malignant – Cells (or a tumour) that can grow and spread. Malignant cells can be life threatening.

The vast majority of breast lumps are benign, that means they are non-cancerous. Most people who have a breast lump do not have cancer, in fact if you took one hundred women who all had a lump in their breast, 90 of them (90 %) would not have breast cancer (even though they had a breast lump). The same information can be shown using a picture, the yellow people have a breast lump but don’t have cancer, the green people have a breast lump that is cancer.

Breast Lumps Not Cancer WEB

So what causes breast lumps apart from cancer? In part it depends on your age, some types of breast lump e.g. fibroadenomas are more common in women under 40 while others, such as breast cysts are more common in women over 40 years.

  • Fibroadenomas

These are benign (non-cancerous) lumps and having a fibroadneoma doesn’t increase your risk of getting breast cancer. Fibroadenomas don’t usually hurt and you can have more than one.  They are usually 1-3 cm. The charity Breast Cancer Care have more information on fibroadenomas.

  • Breast Cysts

Breast cysts are fluid filled sacs in the breast they can feel soft or hard and can be painful. Many cysts go away by themselves, if they are large and sore they can be drained using a needle. The charity Breast Cancer Care have more information on breast cysts.

  • Benign phyllodes tumor

These are relatively rare and are usually found in older women, they can be found anywhere in the breast and can grow quite large, quite quickly. These tumours are usually removed by a small operation (surgery). A phyllodes tumour can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). A pathologist will  look at a sample of the tumour and they will be able to tell if it is benign or malignant. Breast Cancer Care have more information on phyllodes tumours.

Breast Cancer Care can also send you leaflets in the post about benign breast lumps.  If so many lumps are benign, why should you bother your doctor? Because you can’t tell which lumps need treating (because they are malignant) and which lumps can be left alone. Your GP will have a better idea simply because they have felt hundreds of lumps and bumps and if they are in doubt they will send you to your local breast clinic to have it checked out.  If the breast clinic are in any doubt they will remove the lump. It is far better to get this done sooner rather than later because even in the unlikely event that it is cancer the sooner it is discovered the more successful treatment is.

More Information on breast lumps:

If you are reading this because you’ve found a lump in your breast, what should you do? Make an appointment with your GP, you can ask to see a female GP if you prefer and tell them about it, don’t chicken out, make sure it is the first think you ask them about when you get in the door (don’t leave it until the end of your appointment when you are just away to walk out the door). Say “this is embarrassing, but I’ve found a lump in my breast and I’m worried it could be cancer”. Your GP may want to feel the lump and may refer you to a breast clinic, remember this is not a “bad” sign, it can be hard to tell if a lump is cancer or not without doing more tests and that is exactly what breast clinics are there for.

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9 comments to I have a lump in my breast. Does that mean I have cancer?

  • sandra

    i have a lump on my right breast it doesnt hurt but im scared to go to the doctor what shld i do

  • Sarah

    You need to ask your own doctor (even if it doesn’t hurt). If you are in the UK you should make an appointment with your GP, they get asked about lumps all the time so don’t worry about feeling embarassed. Most lumps (9/10) aren’t cancer. If you are young (under 40-50 years) it is very unlikey to be anything to worry about BUT, you won’t know until you’ve seen a doctor.

    If you are in the UK you can ask to see a female doctor, make sure it’s the first thing you say when you go in the door. Say “this is worrying me, I’ve found a lump in my breast…” (otherwise you might chicken out!). The doctor will probably want to feel it but that’s about all.

    Maybe you could give Breast Cancer Care a ring on 0808 800 6000? They will be able to talk to you about going to the doctors.


  • louise

    hi there i have a lump just under my left breast i have been to the breast clinic and they said it looks like a fibroadenoma and its not cancerous its started hurting again as it stoped hurting the time i went to the clinic its like every time i cough or strain it really hurts and i can feel it im still worried how do they no its not cancerous just looking under a scaner they didnt take fluid or any thing they just looked at it and sent me on my way ! please can you give me some advice

  • Sarah

    I wouldn’t be too worried if the breast clinic thought it was a fibroadenoma. The fact it hurts isn’t a “bad” sign. Often lumps that are cancer don’t hurt, but you can’t tell just by looking at them.

    I don’t know how they can tell for sure that it’s not cancerous, I’m not sure what sort of scan you had which is why you need to go back to your GP and ask, it will be in your notes. Often the type of scan you get depends on your age.

    If I were you I would go back to your GP and point out that it still hurts (even if that means they refer you back to the breast clinic). Say that it is still worrying you. If your GP doesn’t want to refer you back to the breast clinic then suggest they keep and eye on it (perhaps arrange a further check up when you are there?) and refer you if it’s still causing you bother.

  • Hi my name is Karina, and I think I may have breast cancer . Am 10 years old and am scared of the future ,I have seen and felt on my right breast a small lump on my nipple which is going unbumpy,it hurts when I press onto it and its, bigger than the other breast and the lump doesnt hurt . The left breast has , three tiny lumps on the nipple ,it doesnt hurt at all if I press it , its smaller than the other breast and the lumps dont hurt me.

    I am from the UK , am 10 years old , I would not whant to tell my parents unless I do have breast cancer or tumoar etc. and dont tell MY or any other doctors .

    am scared of my future and I would like my massage to be read carefully and be replayed as fast as someone can and please feel free for questioning but dont ask for pics thank you

  • sherry

    hi i just found out at my mamagram.that they found 3 white dots.going for a boipsy next week.can you have pain with breast cancer.

  • Sarah

    Hi Karina,
    I think you should speak to someone about this, as you are 10 years old I do not think you have breast cancer. Not all lumps are breast cancer. You are worried and so the very best thing to do is tell your parents (or ask you parents to make you a doctors appointment). Your parents don’t have to visit the doctor with you (they can wait in the waiting room) and the doctor will be able to put your mind at rest. Don’t keep worrying about this by yourself, your smart so I know you’ll be able to talk to someone :-)

  • Busisiwe

    Hi, I discovered that I had a breast lump at the age of 16.. and I went to my nearest clinic and they refered me to a hospital….and the doctors said it was a normal fibroadenoma but I was’n t satisfied with their response cause I believed that their was more to it….I’ ve had it for 7 years now, and they told me it would dissapear on it’s own, but after 7 years it still remains and grows and experiencing pain around my armpits and ribs ans back pains, Im very worried and recently joined a cancer association and they refered me to hospital and asked for it to be removed since the doctors really gave a hard time about removing the lump for 7 years.

  • beff

    hey im beff,
    um im 13 from AUS and i have white lumps over my left nipple, is this normal? or is it a sign of cancer or what? i also have a funny red rash thing rather close to the lumps, i am extremely worried :/ please help? like is it a form of cancer or what?

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