What is a Breast Lump?

A breast lump or is a bulge or bump in the breasts. Breast lumps are more common in older women, but they can also develop in teenagers, young girls and babies. There are many different types of breast lumps that happen in children, but most are benign (noncancerous). Even though breast lumps can be harmless, it is still important to see a doctor if you or your child notice changes in what their breasts normally feel like.

Types of Breast Lumps

Common types of breast lumps include:

  • Breast cysts are the most common type of lump in children and teens. A breast cyst is a fluid-fill pocket that can be just under the skin or inside the breast tissue. Breast cysts are almost always benign, but they can become painful just before a woman begins her period. The cyst might also change size over the course of her period.
  • Fibroadenomas are often found in older teenagers and young women in their early 20s. They are typically painless and benign. Fibroadenomas are made up of gland and connective tissue and can be different sizes.
  • Fibrocystic changes are normal changes in the texture of a woman’s breast tissue that causes the breasts to feel lumpy or ropy. The breasts may also be painful, especially right before a woman’s period. Fibrocystic breasts are common and harmless, but they can sometimes cause discomfort.

Less common causes of breast lumps include:

  • Injury to the breast can cause a lump to appear under the skin if the blood vessels or fat cells in the breast are damaged.
  • If bacteria gets inside the skin of the breasts, it sometimes causes an infected lump to develop. A lump that is caused by infection may look red or irritated and feel warm to touch.
  • Precocious puberty, or puberty that begins too early, can cause breast buds to appear in very young girls. A breast bud is a lump that develops under the nipple in the first stage of breast growth. The lump may be tender and sore, but it is completely normal in girls undergoing puberty. However, if your child is under eight years old and developing breast buds, she may be experiencing precocious puberty. It is important to talk to a physician if you believe your child is developing breasts too early, or showing other signs of early puberty. Read more about precocious puberty.

Only a doctor can diagnose the kind of breast lump that your child has. Breast lumps can also be caused by other conditions.

What Does a Breast Lump Feel Like?

Breast lumps can look and feel different depending on the type. They can be painful or painless, and may feel hard, soft, or rubbery under the skin. Some breast lumps are moveable and some are not. They can be many different sizes. It is important for girls and young women to be familiar with the normal shape of their breasts, so they can recognize if a lump appears.

When to See a Doctor for a Breast Lump

Girls and young women should see a doctor if:

  • They develop a painful lump on their breast
  • They find a painless lump on their breast that doesn’t go away for several weeks

Most of the time there is little to worry about when a child develops a breast lump, but it should still be examined by a doctor.

How Are Breast Lumps Treated in Children?

Most breast lumps in children don’t need treatment if they are not getting bigger or causing pain.

  • A breast lump may only need to be monitored (watched) by a doctor to see if the lump gets larger or begins hurting.
  • An ultrasound of the lump may be used to help diagnose what type of lump it is.
  • The doctor may take a biopsy (when a small sample of the breast lump tissue is removed and checked under a microscope).

Lumps that are growing quickly may need to be surgically removed. This is done with a procedure called a lumpectomy (when a doctor removes the abnormal breast tissue while your child is asleep under general anesthesia).