Real Pictures Of Breast Cancer Lumps

Real Pictures Of Breast Cancer Lumps
Shot of a surgeon looking at a monitor in an operating room

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Kerger said that doctors are especially concerned if a lump is hard and “not mobile.”

What Does Breast Cancer Look Like?

Depending on the type of breast cancer, you may notice breast lumps or changes in the size and color of your breast. Your nipple may also change in appearance.

Breast cancer is the uncontrollable growth of malignant cells in the breasts. It’s the most common cancer in women, although it can also develop in men.

The exact cause of breast cancer is unknown, but some women have a higher risk than others. This includes women with a personal or family history of breast cancer and women with certain gene mutations.

You also have an increased risk of breast cancer if you began your menstrual cycle before the age of 12, started menopause at an older age, or have never been pregnant.

Diagnosing and treating breast cancer early offers the best treatment outlook. It’s important to examine your breasts regularly and schedule regular mammograms.

Talk to your doctor about which breast cancer screening schedule would be best for you.

Since cancer cells can metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of breast cancer early on. The sooner you receive a diagnosis and start treatment, the better your outlook.

The earliest symptoms of breast cancer are easier to feel than see. Performing a monthly self-exam of your breasts will help you get familiar with their normal look and feel.

There’s no evidence that self-exams will help you detect cancer earlier, but it will help make it easier for you to notice any changes in your breast tissue.

Get into a routine of examining your breasts at least once per month. The best time to examine your breasts is a few days after the start of your menstrual cycle. If you’ve already begun menopause, choose a specific date to check your breasts every month.

With one hand positioned on your hip, use your other hand to run your fingers over both sides of your breasts, and don’t forget to check underneath your armpits.

If you feel a lump or thickness, it’s important to realize that some women have thicker breasts than others and that if you have thicker breasts, you may notice lumpiness. A benign tumor or cyst can also cause lumpiness.

Even though it might be not be cause for alarm, tell your doctor about anything you notice that seems unusual.

A milky discharge from the nipples is common when you’re breastfeeding, but you shouldn’t ignore this symptom if you aren’t breastfeeding. Unusual discharge from your nipples can be a symptom of breast cancer. This includes a clear discharge and bloody discharge.

If you’re noticing a discharge and you’re not breastfeeding, make an appointment with your doctor. They can do an examination and find out the cause.

It’s not uncommon for breasts to swell, and you may notice a change in size around the time of your menstrual cycle.

Swelling can also cause breast tenderness, and it may be slightly uncomfortable to wear a bra or lie down on your stomach. This is perfectly normal and rarely indicative of breast cancer.

But while your breasts may undergo certain changes at different times of the month, you shouldn’t overlook some changes. If you notice your breasts swelling at times other than your menstrual cycle, or if only one breast is swollen, talk to your doctor.

In cases of normal swelling, both breasts remain symmetrical. That means one won’t suddenly be larger or more swollen than the other.

Changes in nipple appearance can happen over time and can be considered normal. But talk to your doctor if you notice a newly inverted nipple. This is easy to identify. Instead of pointing outward, the nipple is pulled into the breast.

An inverted nipple in itself doesn’t mean you have breast cancer. Some women normally have a flat nipple that looks inverted, and other women develop an inverted nipple over time. Still, your doctor should investigate and rule out cancer.

Don’t immediately be alarmed if you notice peeling, scaling, or flaking on your breasts or the skin around your nipples. This is a symptom of breast cancer, but it can also be a symptom of atopic dermatitis, eczema, or another skin condition.

After an exam, your doctor may run tests to rule out Paget’s disease, which is a type of breast cancer affecting the nipples. It can also cause these symptoms.

You may not associate breast cancer with redness or a skin rash, but in the case of inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), a rash is an early symptom. This is an aggressive form of breast cancer that affects the skin and lymph vessels of the breast.

Unlike other types of breast cancer, IBC doesn’t usually cause lumps. However, your breasts may become swollen, warm, and appear red. The rash may resemble clusters of insect bites, and it’s not unusual to have itchiness.

A rash isn’t the only visual symptom of inflammatory breast cancer. This type of cancer also changes the appearance of your breasts. You may notice dimpling or pitting, and the skin on your breast may begin to look like an orange peel due to underlying inflammation.

What does a breast cancer lump feel like? 8 pictures to help determine if a lump is normal or concerning

For half the population, Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October means being bombarded with pictures of breast cancer lumps, and messages encouraging them to “be familiar” with their breasts and know the warning signs of breast cancer. However, what’s normal for one pair of breasts may not be for another, so it can be tricky to determine what’s just typical variation and what’s a warning sign.

TODAY spoke to several experts who explained what to be aware of and when you should see a doctor.

What does it mean to “be familiar” with your breasts?

While most medical organizations don’t recommend breast self-exams as part of a cancer detection screening, experts told TODAY that women can still benefit from knowing what their breasts typically look and feel like.

To do that, Dr. Amy Kerger, a radiologist who specializes in breast cancer imaging at the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center, part of the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, recommends picking one day a month and doing a brief examination.

A mammogram can capture different masses within the breast: Benign cysts tend to feel soft when they’re closer to the surface of the breast or hard when they’re further in. Breast calcifications are usually too small to feel with your fingers. Breast cancer lumps are hard and don’t move. National Cancer Institute

“Pick a date, because your breasts change with your hormones,” Kerger said. “And you should do it in the same manner, whether you’re in the shower, lying in bed, sitting up. . All of that changes what you’re feeling and where things are in your breasts, because breasts are mobile. It’s really important that, if you’re going to do something like that, to do it consistently.”

Dr. Judy Song, chief of breast imaging at MedStar Health, added that at different points in your menstrual cycle, you may have more lumps and bumps, so being familiar with those changes can help you understand what’s normal on your chest.

By regularly examining your breasts and the area around them — Kerger said to make sure your examination includes the area around your armpit and the sides of your breasts — you’ll be more likely to notice alarming lumps or other changes quicker.

“I would more encourage women to say if something just doesn’t feel right. If a woman is at all concerned, even if it may be nothing . she should always err on the side of caution,” said Dr. Jessica Jones, a breast oncologist at UTHealth Houston and Memorial Hermann in Houston, Texas. “It is easier to do a test than find out later.”

What does a lump really look like?

Kerger said that any new lump “is a problem” that you should bring to a doctor.

According to Know Your Lemons, a nonprofit global organization that focuses on making information about breast cancer warning signs and detection methods accessible, a hard lump is a common sign of cancer.

A hard lump — of any shape or size — in your breast that doesn’t move is the most common sign of breast cancer. It can be deep in the breast or visible on the surface. Think of it like a marble, one expert said. TODAY Illustrations

“The most common sign of breast cancer is a lump, deep in the breast. It often feels hard, like a lemon seed, and usually immovable. It can be any shape or size,” said the site. You might also see a bump, according to the site, on the surface of your breast.

Kerger said that doctors are especially concerned if a lump is hard and “not mobile.”

If you have notice a breast lump that grows in size or otherwise changes, report it to your doctor. TODAY Illustrations

“When something is hard and doesn’t move around, like you’re rolling a marble on a table under your hand, (that) is more concerning,” she said. However, it can be hard for people to diagnose this on themselves, so she recommends going to your doctor with concerns like these.

For men, who can be diagnosed with breast cancer, hard lumps right near the nipple are a warning sign.

For male bodies, a hard lumps right near the nipple are the most prominent warning sign of breast cancer. TODAY Illustration

“Because (men) normally do not have breasts in the way women do, they may notice a lump or a dimple or a change in skin color on their breast that would indicate the presence of a breast cancer,” said Jones. “If (a man) has a change on his breast, he should absolutely let his doctor know.”

Breast lumps that are a warning sign of cancer can also be located under the armpit. TODAY Illustrations

However, there are also a lot of innocent reasons behind the lumps and bumps on your breast. Some can be cysts, which are collections of fluid, or fibroadenomas, which are benign and made up of tissue. Your breasts also contain lymph nodes, which Know Your Lemons says can “feel like soft beans,” and milk lobes, which “feel like soft peas.”

Being familiar with your breasts can help you tell the difference between what’s normal and what’s new.

What are other breast cancer warning signs?

Lumps and bumps may be the first signs people think of when they think of breast cancer detection, but there are several more signs that people should be on the lookout for.

Kerger said that many changes can occur near the nipple and areola: Any change in that area, including color or inversion of the nipple, should be mentioned to your doctor.

If you notice and change in the shape and color of your nipples, or any inversion, bring it up with your doctor as soon as possible. TODAY Illustrations

Discharge from the breast, which can be clear fluid or contain blood, should also be mentioned.

Jones also said that dimpling, which usually looks like an indentation, is a warning sign. Another symptom can be breasts beginning to change shape – such as becoming lopsided or one becoming swollen.

If your beast as a whole changes shape or becomes swollen or lopsided, that can be a sign of breast cancer. TODAY Illustration

Another less common symptom, Kerger said, is breast pain. While some breast pain is normal, especially when in tune with your menstrual cycle, breast pain in a specific area is less common.

“If you have breast pain you can point to with one finger or is . in one quadrant of your breasts . then that can be a little more concerning,” Kerger said.

Breast pain in a specific area, something that you can point to with one finger, that isn’t tied to your menstrual cycle is cause for concern. TODAY Illustrations

If you have any of these signs or symptoms, tell your primary care physician. If you are 40 years or older, you should be receiving regular mammograms, but if you are younger and having these symptoms, you can still get a mammogram. Some people with dense breasts may need an ultrasound, which can give a more thorough look at the breast and surrounding area. Song said that if you do have these tests done, there’s nothing wrong with asking your doctor for as much information as possible.

“Don’t be shy to ask to see the images and get an understanding of what your breast makeup is,” she said. “A picture’s worth a thousand words.”

Kerry Breen is a reporter and associate editor for, where she reports on health news, pop culture and more. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from New York University.