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If You Find a Lump
If you feel a lump in your breast, do not panic. Most lumps are not breast cancer, but something less serious, such as a benign (not cancer) breast condition.
Many women’s breasts feel lumpy. Breast tissue naturally has a bumpy texture. For some women, the lumpiness is more pronounced than for others. In most cases, this lumpiness is no cause to worry. If the lumpiness can be felt throughout the breast and feels like your other breast, then it is probably normal breast tissue.
Lumps that feel harder or different from the rest of the breast (or the other breast) or that feel like a change are a concern and should be checked. This type of lump may be a sign of breast cancer or a benign breast condition such as a cyst or fibroadenoma.
See your health care provider if you:
- Find a new lump (or any change) that feels different from the rest of your breast
- Find a new lump (or any change) that feels different from your other breast
- Feel something that is different from what you felt before
If you are unsure whether you should have a lump (or any change) checked, it is best to see a provider. Although a lump (or any change) may be nothing to worry about, you will have the peace of mind that it has been checked.
Liquid leaking from your nipple (nipple discharge) can be troubling, but it is rarely a sign of breast cancer. Discharge can be your body’s natural reaction when the nipple is squeezed.
Signs of a more serious condition (such as breast cancer) include discharge that:
- Occurs without squeezing the nipple
- Occurs in only one breast
- Is bloody or clear (not milky)
Nipple discharge can also be caused by an infection or other condition that needs treatment. If you have any nipple discharge, see a health care provider right away.
You may see or feel other changes in your breasts. See your health care provider if you notice any of these warning signs of breast cancer:
- Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
- Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
- Change in the size or shape of the breast
- Dimpling or puckering of the skin
- Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
- Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
- Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
- New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away
- Pain in your breasts may be related to your menstrual period. However, if the pain does not go away, don’t ignore it. Although pain is rarely a sign of breast cancer, it is best to see your provider to be sure.
Learn more about the warning signs of breast cancer.
Learn more about benign breast conditions.
What to do if you do not have a health care provider or insurance
If you do not have a health care provider, one of the best ways to find a good one is to get a referral from a trusted family member or friend. If that is not an option, call your health department, a clinic or a nearby hospital. Learn more about finding a health care provider.
Step One: Have your symptoms evaluated by a provider.
First you need to see a provider. They will evaluate any symptoms, and if appropriate, make a referral for what further testing you may need, if any. If you do have insurance, this visit may be subject to your deductible. If you do not have insurance, or are looking for a low-cost option, you can locate a free clinic that has hours that work for you through the Ohio Association of Free Clinics. There you will find a list of clinics available by county, their hours, location, phone number and website. Specifically, any clinic that has primary care will be appropriate. Some of the clinics are free, while some are fee for service on a sliding scale. They should be able to work with you for financial assistance.
Step Two: Ask questions and advocate for yourself.
When you are with the provider, you may want some help knowing what questions to ask. Be sure to get answers to all of your questions, and share your family history and personal risk factors with the provider. Here’s a list of questions to ask the provider. If you end up having further testing, there are more question topics here.
Learn more about risk factors and family history. Most women with breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease. Only about 13 percent of women diagnosed have a first-degree female relative (mother, sister or daughter) with breast cancer. A woman who has one first-degree female relative with breast cancer has almost twice the risk of a woman without a family history. If she has more than one first-degree female relative with a history of breast cancer, her risk is about three to four times higher.
Step Three: Follow-up with any recommended testing. Financial assistance is available. Ask for a patient navigator.
If the provider recommends you have follow-up testing, they may recommend ultrasound, MRI or diagnostic mammography- possible even biopsy. You can learn more about the process of breast cancer diagnostic tests, what the mean, how to understand the results and more here.
Most follow-up tests are subject to your insurance deductible, if you do have insurance. You may be responsible for some or all of these costs. Susan G. Komen Columbus Community Health Programs are designed to meet the needs of local women, and may be able to provide you financial assistance. You can view a list of those programs here. You may want to contact these programs, ask if you are eligible for their assistance, and ask your provider for a referral to that program.
Even if you do not need financial assistance, most facilities that provide diagnostic testing will also assign you a patient navigator to help guide you through the process and the healthcare system. If you are not assigned a patient navigator, you may want to ask for one. The navigator should help you address any barriers to following-up, like transportation, child care, finances, questions, insurance and more.
You can always contact Komen Columbus with additional questions or for other resources by emailing us or by calling or 614-297-8155 x204, as well as the free helpline at 1-866-GO-KOMEN.