An abnormal mammogram, a breast lump or other changes in your breast isn’t an automatic cancer diagnosis. In fact, changes in your breasts are very common, and most are not cancer. However, it’s important to talk to your health care provider if you notice any changes.
Breast changes that are not cancer
Most women have changes in the breasts at different times during their lifetime.
- Before or during your menstrual periods, your breasts may feel swollen, tender or painful. You may also feel one or more lumps during this time because of extra fluid in your breasts. Your health care provider may want to see you at a different time in your menstrual cycle to see if the lump has changed.
- During pregnancy, your breasts may feel lumpy. This is usually because the glands that produce milk are increasing in number and getting larger. While breastfeeding, you may get a condition called mastitis. This happens when a milk duct becomes blocked. Mastitis causes the breast to look red and feel lumpy, warm and tender. It may be caused by an infection and it is often treated with antibiotics. Sometimes the duct may need to be drained.
- If you are taking hormones, such as menopausal hormone therapy, birth control pills or injections, your breasts may become more dense. This can make a mammogram harder to interpret. Be sure to let your health care provider know if you are taking hormones.
- As you approach menopause, your hormone levels change. This can make your breasts feel tender, even when you are not having your menstrual period. Your breasts may also feel more lumpy than they did before.
- After menopause, your hormone levels drop. You may stop having any lumps, pain or nipple discharge that you used to have.
Breast changes that could be concerning
Some breast changes can be felt. Some, like a change in shape, are noticeable just by looking in the mirror. Talk to your health care provider if you notice any of these:
- A lump or firm feeling in your breast or under your arm. Lumps come in different shapes and sizes. Normal breast tissue can sometimes feel lumpy. Doing breast self-exams can help you learn how your breasts normally feel and make it easier to notice and find any changes.
- Nipple changes or discharge. Nipple discharge may be different colors or textures. It can be caused by birth control pills, some medicines and infections. Because it can also be a sign of cancer, it should always be checked by a provider.
- Skin that is itchy, red, scaled, dimpled or puckered.
To schedule a mammogram:
Eastern Wisconsin: Call (920) 496-4789
Western Wisconsin: Call (715) 717-3690