Benign breast lumps are non-cancerous lumps caused by changes in breast tissue. They can occur in one or both breasts and can be moved slightly when pressed. Most benign lumps do not require treatment and will subside on their own. Benign breast lumps can be caused by natural breast tissue changes, hormonal levels, breast injuries, or breast infections.
The most common type of benign breast lumps are fibroadenomas. These lumps occur when the breast tissue has too many milk-production glands, referred to as lobules. Fibroadenomas are round, painless lumps that generally appear in women in their twenties and thirties. African American women are the most likely to have fibroadenomas.
Intraductal papillomas are small growths in the lining of the milk ducts. They can cause breast lumps under the nipple and may result in bleeding or discharge from the nipple. Intraductal papillomas do not need to be treated unless they become painful. They tend to occur most often in middle-aged women.
During menstrual cycles, some women may experience fibrocystic changes in the breasts that result in hard lumps. Fibrocystic breast changes are caused by hormone fluctuations during the menstrual cycle. Breasts may become harder and lumpier to the touch before the beginning of menstrual bleeding. Fibrocystic breast changes are the most common in women their forties, but become less likely once women enter menopause.
Another type of benign breast lump that can occur during the menstrual cycle are simple cysts, small sacs that contain fluid and tend to vary in size. Depending on hormonal changes, a woman can have multiple simple cysts at once. Simple cysts can be tender or painful during the menstrual cycle but will disappear once hormone levels return to normal.
Traumatic fat necrosis is a condition in which benign breast lumps are caused by trauma or sudden injury to the breast. The trauma results in fat in the breast developing into hard lumps. Lumps caused by traumatic fat necrosis are generally painless and go away on their own without treatment.
Infections in the breast can result in benign breast lumps. A common breast infection is mastitis, a condition in which the milk ducts become clogged and infected. It is most prevalent in women who breastfeed. Mastitis can cause breast lumps, as well as redness and pain, but can be cured with antibiotics.
Men can experience benign breast lumps as well. Gynecomastia is a condition in which males experience abnormal breast enlargement, as well as tenderness and lumps underneath the nipples. It can be caused by hormonal imbalances or medications containing steroids or estrogen. Gynecomastia may disappear on its own or can be surgically treated.