If you have a lump in your breast, chances are good–very good–that it’s not breast cancer.
Ninety percent of lumps are benign and can be due to a whole host of causes, from menstruation to cysts to remnants of an old injury.
Most lumps are treatable or don’t need to be treated. Usually, they aren’t even associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
Don’t panic if you feel a lump in your breast, but do take it seriously. “It’s important to tell your doctor and to get it checked, but it’s more than likely that it will not be breast cancer,” says Lindsay Petersen, MD, a breast cancer surgeon at Henry Ford Cancer Institute in Detroit.
While you don’t need to do a formal self-exam every month, you should be familiar enough with your breasts to notice any changes. “If you feel something that’s different that feels like a marble or an area that all of a sudden feels kind of firm or thicker and you never noticed it before, you need to go to a physician,” says Cynara Coomer, MD, chief of breast surgery and director of the Florina Rusi-Marke Comprehensive Breast Center at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City.
Other symptoms that should definitely be discussed with your doctor include new or worsening pain in your breasts; breast changes that don’t go away after your period ends; any lumps that grow; or discharge from your nipple.
If you feel a lump in your breast, here’s what you and your doctor might find that’s not cancer.