Gold Member Badge


  • You're all caught up!

Cancerous Symptoms in Breast Lumps

author image Amy Fogelstrom Chai
Amy Fogelstrom Chai is a physician, author and educator. She received her Doctor of Medicine degree from Indiana University, and her Master of Science in epidemiology from the University of Virginia. She has been a contributing author for HopeKeepers magazine, serving the chronically ill by answering reader-submitted questions.
Cancerous Symptoms in Breast Lumps
A still life of a bra, pink ribbon and stethoscope. Photo Credit: Voyagerix/iStock/Getty Images
Medically Reviewed by
Brenda Spriggs, MD, MPH, MBA

Every woman fears discovering a lump in her breast. All breast lumps, both in women and in men, could be cancerous and must be promptly evaluated by a physician. The diagnostic process takes time, however, and the uncertainty can be terrifying.

Video of the Day

The Lump

If the breast lump is large enough to feel, you can get some clues about whether it is likely to be cancerous. If the lump feels hard or irregular, and not painful or tender to the touch, it is more likely to be cancerous. If the lump was discovered by mammography, however, it may be impossible to examine by feel.

The Nipple

If you have a nipple that seems to be pulled inward (an inverted nipple), it may be due to a cancerous lump. Also, a nipple discharge that is not milky may occur in association with cancerous lumps. Unusual nipple discharge should be evaluated by a physician even if you do not feel a lump.

The Skin

The skin overlying the lump can provide a clue as to whether a breast lump is cancerous. If there is a dimple in the skin above the lump, or if the skin is flaky or red over the lump, it is more likely to be cancerous. Certain skin changes, such as a thickening of the skin with discoloration that resembles an orange peel, are highly likely to be associated with underlying cancer.

The Armpit

Lymph nodes that connect to the breast are found beneath the armpit. Lumps in the armpit on the same side as the breast lump may be a sign that there is breast cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes.

The Breast

If the breast itself is abnormal or has changed in any way, that increases the likelihood of breast cancer. For example, if the breast has become swollen or painful, it could be a sign of underlying breast cancer.

The Patient

The National Cancer Institute has a risk assessment tool that lists patient characteristics associated with breast cancer, such as age, family history and personal history. One in eight women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime, and the risk increases with a family history of breast cancer. The good news is that if breast cancer is detected early, there is a 98 percent 5-year survival rate. Do not wait to see your doctor if you are worried about breast cancer.

LiveStrong Calorie Tracker
Lose Weight. Feel Great! Change your life with MyPlate by LIVESTRONG.COM
  • Gain 2 pounds per week
  • Gain 1.5 pounds per week
  • Gain 1 pound per week
  • Gain 0.5 pound per week
  • Maintain my current weight
  • Lose 0.5 pound per week
  • Lose 1 pound per week
  • Lose 1.5 pounds per week
  • Lose 2 pounds per week
  • Female
  • Male
ft. in.


Demand Media