What is a breast Lump?

How do I know if I have a lump?


A 'lump' or a 'knot' in the breast is the most common symptom of breast cancer. However, not all lumps are cancerous. There are many non cancerous lumps as well. Different women will have different interpretations of a lump. It is essential to understand what a lump is and what it can possibly feel like - this will help you being aware and detect a lump early, in case it develops.

The following way of explanation may sound very funny, but honestly, many women do not understand what a lump feels like and how to look out for one. Comparing to something, is the best way to explain a lump. So here we go, read on:


The normal breast contains two main types of cells - fat cells and glandular cells. Depending on the amount of each present, the 'density' of the breast varies, and with density, the feel of a breast varies. This variation is both, from woman to woman, and from age to age. The breast should ideally be 'felt' with the 'flat' of the hand. The 'flat' of the hand means the 'inner' surface of the fingers. The fingers should be placed on the breast tissue, and rotated in a clockwise manner, to have a 'feel'

Breasts, which are 'less dense' feel like a sponge. The fingers dip in easily. Breasts which are 'more dense' feel like a dough. The fingers cannot be dipped in that easily, and there is some resistance. Both are, however, soft to feel, and none of them feels hard at all. These are the two extremes and most women will have a breast tissue density, somewhere in between these two. The reason of discussing this breast density is that, it is essential to be familiar with the feel of the breast.


Now keeping in mind, the sponge and the dough above, imagine if a small tennis ball (not the large on shown in the figure) was placed within that sponge or within that dough, How would it 'feel'? When the flat of the hand feels the breast tissue, it will make out the most of the sponge or dough is fairly soft, but there is 'something hard' on which the examining fingers easily roll on and the surface is smooth to feel. If you try to press the rest of the sponge or dough, it presses nicely (with differing resistance), but when you try to press the area where the ball is there, it won't press, but there is a 'springy rebound feel'.
Most 'Fibroadenomas' feel like this. They can even be moved from side to side.

And a similar situation, when a walnut is placed within the sponge or the dough. A walnut is all the more hard! Imagine feeling the sponge or dough now, with the walnut hidden inside. When the fingers move over the sponge or the dough, they 'dip in' nicely without resistance, but when they come to the area where the walnut is there, a distinct 'hardness' will be felt, and the fingers just wont be able to 'dip in'.
Such hard lumps are usually seen in breast cancer. Also, these lumps feel 'stuck' inside, they wont move from side to side.

Most lumps feel hard. But there are some 'soft' lumps as well. Imagine a water filled balloon placed in the sponge and dough, how would it feel? One can easily indent the balloon part and it feels as soft as the breast, except for a slightly different 'feel'. Such soft feel is felt in cysts or occasionally collection of pus inside the breast, and both are usually non cancerous conditions.


The above discussion was to guide on how to feel for a lump and how to lookout for a lump, so that, on regular breast examinations, one can lookout for such lumps, and if felt, consult a doctor. Following points must be kept in mind: