Movable breast lumps can be benign, malignant, or caused by other conditions. Breast lumps are common and not always a cause for concern. However, it is important to see a doctor to rule out breast cancer.

Hormonal changes, infections, and benign growths can cause breast lumps. However, people should contact a doctor to rule out cancer, especially if the lump is new, persistent, or changes in size or shape.

This article explains the different types of breast lumps and how to tell if a lump is cancerous. It also discusses the importance of self-exams and regular mammograms for early detection of breast cancer.

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Breast lumps can be movable or fixed within the breast tissue. Breast cancer lumps may be fixed to the breast tissue. However, the mobility of a lump is not a reliable way to determine whether it is cancerous.

Cancerous breast lumps are typically irregular in shape, texture, and size. They may feel firm or hard.

Generally, a lump has to be about 1 centimeter, which is the size of a large lima bean, before a person can feel it. However, this can vary depending on the breast’s size and the lump’s location.

Cancerous breast lumps are often painless, but some may cause pain.

Learn more about what types of breast lumps indicate cancer here.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) states that fibroadenomas are noncancerous breast lumps most common in females in their 20s and 30s, but they can occur at any age. They typically shrink during menopause.

Fibroadenomas can vary in size but are usually small, about the size of a pea or grape. They are round or oval, with clear-cut borders. They are movable under the skin and feel firm or rubbery.

Fibroadenomas can become tender during menstruation or pregnancy, but most people do not experience any symptoms other than a lump. They are generally harmless and do not increase the risk of breast cancer.

Cysts are soft, fluid-filled sacs that can form in the breast tissue. Simple breast cysts are common in premenopausal females in their 30s and 40s.

They usually do not require treatment unless they are causing discomfort.

Breast cysts can be sensitive to the touch or barely noticeable. They can also change in size and tenderness throughout the menstrual cycle.

They are rarely associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. However, if a person has a complex or complicated cyst in their breast, further evaluation may be needed to rule out any potential cancerous growth.

A lipoma is a noncancerous growth of fatty tissue. It can develop anywhere in the body, including the breast.

Lipomas are soft and movable, and they are usually not painful. They can grow up to a few centimeters in size.

Lipomas are not harmful and do not need treatment unless they are causing discomfort. If a lipoma is large or causing discomfort, it can be removed.

When a person discovers a lump or other breast changes, they should schedule an appointment with their primary care doctor or gynecologist for a proper diagnosis.

During the appointment, the healthcare professional will physically examine the breasts, checking for any lumps or abnormalities.

They may also recommend additional diagnostic tests, such as a mammogram or ultrasound, to get a better look at the lump.

If the doctor suspects that the lump may be cancerous, they may recommend a biopsy, which involves removing a small sample of tissue for further testing.

The ACS suggests the following guidelines for getting a mammogram:

  • Those ages 40–44 should have the option to get yearly screening.
  • Those ages 45–54 should get a yearly screening.
  • Those ages 55 and older have the option to continue with yearly screening or switch to every other year.

Learn more about mammograms and the recommended screening schedule here.

Performing a breast self-exam is another way to monitor for lumps and changes in the breasts. This can be beneficial for those with a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

However, both the ACS and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) do not recommend self-breast exams for people with an average risk of developing breast cancer.

Instead, the ACOG states that those with an average risk of developing breast cancer should receive counseling on breast self-awareness.

This means that a person should be familiar with the normal look and feel of their breasts to detect any changes or abnormalities. If a person notices any changes or abnormalities, they should speak with a doctor right away.

To perform a breast self-exam, a person can try the following steps:

  1. Stand in front of a mirror with arms at the sides and examine breasts for any changes in shape, size, or color.
  2. Raise arms above the head and repeat step 1.
  3. Lie down with arm behind head and use the opposite hand to feel breasts. Use varying levels of pressure to feel for any lumps, thickenings, or hardenings. Be sure to feel all areas of the breast, including the armpit and collarbone area.
  4. Look for discharge from nipples or changes in nipple appearance, such as inversion.

Learn more about how and when to perform a breast self-exam here.

A person should see a doctor if they notice any changes in the shape, color, or size of their breasts.

While a movable lump in the breast may not always indicate breast cancer, it is still important to have it evaluated by a healthcare professional.

Other changes that may warrant a doctor’s visit include:

  • breast pain or discomfort
  • persistent nipple discharge
  • dimpling, puckering, or thickening of the breast skin
  • changes in nipple appearance

People who have a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors, such as having the BRCA gene, may also want to seek medical attention if they notice any changes in their breasts, even if they are not experiencing any symptoms.

A movable lump in the breast does not necessarily mean it is cancerous. However, it is important to see a healthcare professional to rule out any potential concerns.

There are many other causes of breast lumps, such as cysts, fibroadenomas, and lipomas. These are usually harmless and can be managed or treated accordingly.