There are different causes for lumps in the breast. Not all of them are cancer.
These harmless growths in the breast tissue tend to occur with hormonal changes, such as the start of a menstrual period. A surgeon may use a needle to drain the fluid that usually fills a cyst. But after draining, cysts can reoccur.
Fibroadenoma and fibrocystic breasts
There conditions involve hardening and thickening of the tissue within the breast. The tissue is usually harmless.
This is when hard, rubbery, lumps form in the milk ducts. These are also usually harmless.
These solid growths are not cancerous or dangerous. They can be uncomfortable, and they can sometimes cause leakage from the nipples, depending on their location. Doing a biopsy and examining the cells from the tumor under a microscope is the only way to determine if it is cancerous or benign.
The breasts change over time and during the menstrual cycle. Lumps may come and go regularly. Checking the breasts at the same time each month can help a person keep track of any change that is unusual. Fatty lumps that develop after a trauma, and the use of some medications, are other causes of breast lumps.
A surgeon can carry out several types of procedure to remove a breast lump or, in some cases, the entire breast.
The surgeon will discuss appropriate options with the patient. The procedure will depend on the size and location of the tumor, breast size, whether cancer has spread, and the wishes of the individual.
Types of surgery
A lumpectomy is when most of the breast tissue stays in place. In some cases, a more invasive intervention is necessary.
If doctors suspect cancer, a surgeon will remove lymph nodes that are close to the breast tumor to look for any evidence that cancer has spread.
When the surgeon removes a cancerous tumor, they must be sure that they have removed all the cancer cells.
The surgeon will initially take a small amount of tissue that surrounds the tumor, known as the border, for examination under a microscope.
If there are no cancer cells in the border, this is considered a healthy or clear margin.
If there are cancer cells in the border, further surgery may be necessary to remove the rest of the cancer.
A quadranectomy is another type of breast-saving surgery, though less common than a lumpectomy.
Around a quarter of the breast, including the tumor, is removed. Reconstructive surgery to replace the removed tissue may be an option after having a quadranectomy.
A mastectomy is the complete removal of the breast, nipple, and all of the breast tissue.
A radical mastectomy also removes the muscles that make up the chest wall. The surgeon may carry out reconstructive surgery to create a new breast, either at the same time or a later date after a mastectomy.