First, don’t panic…
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80 to 85 percent of breast lumps are benign, meaning they are noncancerous, especially in women younger than age 40. Not only that, but if you’re at an age where you’ve been having regular mammograms, and if those mammograms have been negative, odds are even better that your palpable (capable of being felt) lump is not cancer.
But how do you know? How do you differentiate between a lump that is breast cancer and one that is benign? What causes benign breast lumps? And do they go away on their own?
Breast Lumps Distinctions
Your breasts are made up of fat, nerves, blood vessels, fibrous connective tissue, and glandular tissue, as well as an intricate milk-producing system of lobules (where the milk is made) and ducts (the thin tubes that carry milk to the nipple). This anatomy in and of itself creates a lumpy, uneven terrain.
A breast lump, however, distinguishes itself from this background of “normal” irregularities: A breast lump can be solid and unmovable like a dried bean, or soft and fluid-filled, rolling between your fingers like a grape. It can be smaller than a pea or several inches across, although this larger size is rare.
Meanwhile, what typically differentiates a benign breast lump from a cancerous breast lump is movement. A fluid-filled lump that rolls between the fingers is less likely to be cancer than a lump that is hard and rooted to the breast.
This is not to say all benign lumps move and all cancerous lumps don’t. While this is a good rule of thumb, the only way to know for sure is through the wisdom of your doctor and specialized medical tests, such as an ultrasound, a mammogram, or a fine needle aspiration, in which your doctor uses a tiny needle to extract a bit of the lump for a biopsy, or laboratory examination. Another rule of thumb has to do with pain. Breast cancer does not usually present pain, but benign conditions often do, although there are exceptions to this as well.
Not all benign breast lumps will require additional testing, by the way. If you find what appears to be a fluid-filled cyst during your menstrual period, your doctor may want to check your breast again at the end of your period to see if the cyst has disappeared. If the cyst goes away, you and your doctor will know your lump was indeed benign and related to the hormonal fluctuations associated with menstruation.
A Variety of Benign Breast Lumps and Conditions
Most benign breast lumps and conditions are directly related to your menstrual cycle — to fluctuations in your hormones and to the fluid buildup that comes with your monthly period. Other benign breast lumps and conditions may be related to plugged milk ducts, infections, and even breast injuries. Here are some of the most common benign breast conditions:
- Fibrocystic changes. A general lumpiness that can be described as “ropy” or “granular,” these lumps are the most commonly seen benign breast condition, affecting at least half of all women. Symptoms of fibrocystic change include tender, fibrous, rubbery tissue; a thickening of tissue; or a round, fluid-filled cyst. These changes, related to hormone fluctuation, may increase as you approach middle age and then disappear with menopause. Sometimes, your doctor will recommend limiting salt and caffeine in your diet to ease fluid buildup. You may also be prescribed hormones, in the form of birth control pills, to help ease particularly troublesome symptoms. Your doctor may also recommend a needle or surgical biopsy to make sure your breast condition is related to fibrocystic change and not cancer.
- Cysts. Related to fibrocsystic changes, these are round or oval sacs, measuring one inch to two inches across. They are tender to the touch and filled with fluid. They may come and go with your menstrual period, becoming larger and more tender at the beginning of your period and disappearing at the end. Your doctor may order an ultrasound or a fine needle aspiration to make sure it’s a cyst and not something else. In very rare cases, when a cyst is particularly large or painful, your doctor may use a needle to withdraw and reduce the fluid inside it. Cysts generally affect women between the ages of 35 and 50.
- Fibroadenoma. Occurring in young girls and women in their teens and 20s, fibroadenomas are more common in those who use use birth control pills before age 20. This benign tumor ranges in size from microscopic to several inches across. It is movable under the skin, round and hard like a marble, and may be diagnosed by aspiration or removal of the lump. If the fibroadenoma shrinks or doesn’t grow over time, and your doctor is sure of the diagnosis, he or she may decide to simply leave it alone.
- Fat necrosis. This occurs when fatty breast tissue is damaged by injury to the breast, resulting in the formation of round, firm lumps. It is more common in women with large breasts, particularly in women who are obese. Your doctor will most likely watch the lump through several menstrual cycles and may decide to remove it surgically. Sometimes the necrosis will produce what is called an oily cyst, which your doctor will drain with a needle.
- Nipple discharge. Sometimes women experience nipple discharge with or without a breast lump. The color of nipple discharge related to benign fibrocystic changes can vary from yellow to green. A clear to milky discharge may mean a hormonal malfunction. Green-black discharge could be related to duct ectasia, a narrowing or blockage of the duct. It can even be bloody in appearance, which can, in fact, mean cancer. More than likely though, a red discharge means injury, infection, or a benign tumor. Your doctor may study the fluid under a microscope to determine its origin, particularly if there is also a mass or lump in your breast.
- Mastitis. An infection of the milk duct, this can create a lumpy, red, and warm breast, accompanied by fever. It occurs most commonly in women who are breastfeeding, but can occur in non-breastfeeding women as well. Treatment involves warm compresses and antibiotics.
- Other less commonly known conditions. Some medical conditions can also cause breast lumps, including hyperplasia, an overgrowth of cells in the breast ducts or lobules; adenosis, which causes enlarged lobules; intraductal papilloma, a wart-like growth of gland tissue that grows in the duct; and lipoma, which is a benign fatty tumor.
The risk for benign breast conditions increases for women who have never had children and those who have a history of irregular menstrual cycles and/or a family history of breast cancer.
If You Find a Breast Lump
All breast lumps should be evaluated by a medical professional, who will help you decide how to proceed. Most benign breast conditions are treatable, and some will even go away on their own, but it’s best to let your doctor be the one to tell you that.
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100 Reasons Why I Can't Stop Looking At Blue Ivy
1. Mommy & Me
2. Blue. #May10 #NYC
3. Blue Ivy & Jay Z Sip Tea
Blue is surely the apple of Daddy's eye.
4. Blue Ivy & Beyonce Smell The Roses
Beyonce seems like the coolest mom.
5. Blue Ivy & Beyonce Soar The Big Skies
6. Blue Ivy & Mommy
7. Daddy & Me
Blue Ivy walks across mommy's at-home photoshoot, but it's the most adorable photobomb ever!
9. One Big Happy Family
The royal family, Bey, Jay & Blue are all out shopping and we're sure they spent our entire life's savings in 30 minutes or less.
10. Beyoncé, Jay Z & Blue in Beverly Hills — Nov. 11
Beyonce in these heels though?!
11. Beyoncé & Blue in NYC — Nov. 4
Look at Blue in her adorable little bow!
12. Beyoncé & Blue spotted in NYC — Nov. 4
Blue holding on to mommy for dear life.
13. Beyoncé & Blue spotted in NYC — Nov. 4
Momma Bey looking fierce with her mini me in tow.
14. Blue dressed as Michael Jackson.
15. Blue & Ivy
Just look at that face. Seriously, Jay could never deny this child! She knows how to make all his mean mugs!
16. Beyoncé, Jay Z & Blue in Beverly Hills — Nov. 11
Look at that cutie!
17. Beyoncé, Jay Z & Blue in Beverly Hills — Nov. 11
OMG Blue in a top knot? Yasss!
Blue has grown up to be an adorable toddler! We're swooning over this photo of her playing on the beach.
Looks like Blue is taking a walk in mom's shoes...literally.
20. Beyoncé & Blue
There's nothing like being cuddled up in mom's arms.
Blue is looking all kinds of adorable! Look at that left hand go! LOL.
22. Blue On The Big Screen
Bey & Jay look at Blue during a video played at an "On The Run" tour stop. How precious!
23. Pardon Blue's Back
She's growing up so fast! We're loving the top knot. Take that Blue Ivy hair critics!
24. Jump Around
Bey & Blue share an adorable moment on the trampoline. Hello summer!
25. Rocking Some Cute Ponytails
Blue Ivy was spotted with a new 'do! Bey & Jay's mini-me was holding on to her father during a little day stroll.
26. Strolling With Mom & Dad
Blue, Jay and Bey all spotted in East Hampton.
27. Blue Has A Manicure Day With Mama Bey
"Me and my Blue, and my Blue Blue, riding🐝"
28. Hanging Out With Mom
Baby Blue is walking to the door, and it looks like Bey is trying to keep up!
29. Trying On Some Heels
Will Blue be slaying a performance in the near future?
30. Holding On To Mom
Blue looks like she has something to say to Bey.
31. Playing A Game Of Tennis
Blue walks on the tennis court.
32. Cuddling With Mom
Blue & Beyonce have some much-needed cuddle time.
33. Blue Ivy
"The blueprint 🐝"
34. Bey & Blue Take A Stroll
Doesn't Blue look adorable with her colorful dress and cute hair ribbon?
35. The Carter Lounge Together
The family was seen out and about.
36. Jay Z Carries Blue While Bey Looks On
Jay carries Blue in his arms.
37. Leading The Way
Blue Ivy looks too cute with her bowler hat and Mama Bey watching from behind. She's really growing up!
38. Out On The Town
Blue Ivy & Momma Bey enjoy some much deserved time off in Spain.
39. Traveling With Mom and Dad
Blue is used to traveling with Mama Bey and Poppa Jay, but she also looked a little flustered at some moments. It's ok, baby Blue!
40. A Day At The Park
Poppa Jay Z lets Blue Ivy have her way with the bouncy horse.
41. It's A Family Affair
Beyonce, Jay and Blue jetsetting in Dublin.
Blue dressed up like a hipster and plays a quick game of peekaboo! How adorable!
43. OMG It's Blue's Beautiful Face!
FINALLY! We get to see how beautiful Blue is! Look at the adorable headband! "Blue 💙"
44. Blue Ivy
Life's a beach!
45. Brooklyn Stand Up!
"Beyonce & Blue"
46. Blue Ivy's Got Her Own iPhone
"Momma, what's your password?"
47. Beyonce's Lazy Day With Blue
"Momma, I asked you for your password!"
48. When Blue Ivy Takes Your Phone, Beyonce Be Like...
"Fine, I'll go ask Daddy!"
49. Blue Ivy On Tour
"Bey & Blue"
50. It's Playtime
Beyonce & Blue take some time out to play.
51. A Chilly Day In NYC
"Beyoncé, Jay Z and Blue Ivy in NYC - Jan. 19"
52. All Bundled Up
The royal family makes their way to their fancy car.
53. Kisses From Dad
Blue's all bundled up, getting love from Daddy.
54. Blue At The White House
Blue Ivy's taking after mommy and writing a letter.
55. Blue Loves Bo
The White House pup, Bo is showing Blue Ivy some love.
56. The Carters At The White House
Check out the royal family checking out the scene at the White House.
57. It's Christmas Time Again
Blue and Bey checking out the White House Christmas tree.
58. Blue Lovin' Bo
Blue Ivy, dressed like a Princess, showing Bo some love.
59. Like Father, Like Daughter
Blue playing dress up with Daddy's hat.
60. Fun Times With Mommy
Blue Ivy spends some QT with mommy.
61. Mommy & Me
Blue and Bey take a break for some snacks.
62. Silvery Blue
Beyonce carries Blue, while the adorable toddler rocks a metallic jacket that we want and need.
63. The Holy Grail
Blue, Bey & Jay
64. One Big Happy Family
"#miami #newyear #2014"
"Beyoncé & Blue 💙"
66. Blue & Daddy In A Blue Jacket
"Jay and Blue 💙 #NewYear #2014 #Miami"
67. Hold On To Me
"Happy New Year Mommy!"
68. Dora Dora Dora The Explorer
"Beyoncé, Blue and Dora the Explorer"
69. Daddy & Bey
"Look over there Blue, you own that too."
70. Blue's Big B-Day
"Mommy make sure they can only see the back of my head."
71. Painted Faces For Blue's Bday
"Let me get down Mommy, I wanna play!"
72. Kisses From Mommy
Beyonce and Blue prepping for Momma Tina's Masquerade Ball
73. Talk To The Hand!
Beyonce, Jay Z and Blue Ivy were spotted leaving Joey's restaurant in Miami, on January 8th, and Blue had a message for the paps! Talk to the hand!
74. Me & My Daddy
While Beyonce's arm rested, Jay carried Blue from Joey's restaurant, in Miami on January 8th.
75. Blue's First Words
"I'm ready to slay right along with you, Ma!"
76. Imagine The Sound Of This Lullaby
A newborn Blue Ivy gets serenaded by her superstar mother.
77. Don't Mess With Blue!
Every now and again, Blue Ivy reminds you...she is her father's child!
78. All Gold Everything
Blue Ivy takes after her dad's swag. The inseparable duo were spotted in South Beach, Miami illuminating the streets outside their hotel with their yellow luster!
79. All Of The Lights!
"Mommy! All the pretty colors are so blinding! I'm...just..so..overwhelmed! When's my shot coming?! When's my shot coming?!" Blue plays on set with Bey at her 'Blow' video shoot.
80. Hey Blue!
"I can be happy sometimes, see?"
81. Blue Ivy With Daddy
"Why are we clapping, again? I'm not in the shot."
82. Jay Z Tries To Get Blue To Listen To "Magna Carta Holy Grail"
"Daddy, I'm more of a Nas fan."
83. Stepping With Mom
"Wait, Ma. I want the camera to see all angles of this sick dress!"
84. Splashin' & Playin'
"Mom, this water is clean, right? Because I'm not trying to splash in water I can't trust."
85. Beyonce Discusses Important Matters
"Mommy, I completely get it. Yes, I promise to watch the throne."
86. Mommy's Hugs
"Ok, Ma. I love you to pieces, but I like oxygen too." Bey may be the Queen, but this scene from her video "Blue" makes it look as if she can't get enough of being Mom.
87. Blue Ivy Twirls
"Aaaahh, I'm having so much fun not thinking about anything...wiippeee...oh, wait...getting a little sick."
88. Just So You Know...
"I run things. Don't get it twisted."
89. Mommy & Me Loungin'
"Oh, Mommy, I'm so tired of seeing the wigs you snatched last night all on our floor. It's so exhausting. Like, when're they getting picked up? Not now? Oh. Ok."
90. A Kiss For Blue
"Mommy, let me sleep, dang!"
91. Slurpin' On That Milk...Slurpin' Slurpin' On That Milk
"Mommy, gimme that bottle!"
We could watch this adorable GIF of Blue Ivy nonstop forever!
93. Jay Sneaks In Kisses
"Dadddd! Get..Away!..I don't want...No, ugh..No kisses!"
94. Blue Stares Back...
"Hey! Who's that?!"
95. Blue Still Doesn't Get Why Anyone's Here
"No, really, who are you? You're getting to close."
96. Blue and Bey Out For Lunch
"I'm over this now. People just won't let us be. Mom, why can't we just be?!"
97. Blue Is One Tough Cookie
"Ma, please let me just kick them in the face. Like, please, I can't see through all these lights."
98. Blue Jetsets With Jay
"Dad, do we own this boat? I just figured we owned everything, so..."
99. Beyonce Keeps Blue Covered
"Mommy, I think you forgot my feet. I'm cold right now. Are we inside?"
100. Beyonce LOVES Her Blue
Look at that face, how could you not kiss it?!