What did your breast lump feel like?
March 5, 2012 7:59 AM   Subscribe

What did your breast lump feel like?

Seeing the doc on Tuesday, trying not to think about it, but this isn't the kind of thing that I feel comfortable asking my girlfriends. The websites I've read don't really communicate what normal/abnormal is really supposed to feel like, at least not in terms I understand. What makes this little pebble above my nipple cause for concern? It's been there about ten days. I feel like I've been sunburnt, but there's no changes to my skin; I've had a couple drops of clear sticky discharge over the last few days, and higher up I'm swollen and tender. Anyways: what did your lump feel like? What happens next? How did yours turn out? How do I chill the fuck out about this?

Relevant: 30, definitely not pregnant, never had issues with periods, and I wear a chest binder 3-4x week.

I can MeMail me if you want to talk off-thread.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like a cyst that probably needs to be drained.

But I'm betting your doctor should be the one to tell you for sure.
posted by zizzle at 8:03 AM on March 5, 2012

I had a lump in my left breast in college. It was hard and pea-sized and it hurt to poke at it (which of course didn't stop me from poking at it and freaking out). I went to the medical center on campus, who said, "Oh, it's a week before your period, it's just hormones, you're fine." And then a week later, "Oh, it's during your period, it's just hormones, you're fine." And then another week later, "Oh, it's a week after your period, it's just hormones, you're fine." At that visit, I insisted on a referral elsewhere, and got an appointment at the Elizabeth Wende Breast Care center. I was too young for a mammogram at the time, so they did a needle biopsy which hurt like hell - they stuck a needle into the lump and jiggled it around to make sure they had enough cells to test. It turned out to be benign and it's still there, although smaller and less noticeable now. I don't regret following up repeatedly.

You don't mention seeing a doctor in your post. Perhaps you could stop in at an urgent care center, where they at least might be able to rule out anything horrific. Good luck.
posted by SeedStitch at 8:07 AM on March 5, 2012

I have a lump in the breast tissue that's near my armpit, and the reason that doctors have assured me that it's not a problem is that it's noticeably larger and more tender right before my period, and smaller and less tender after my period. I am going to get an ultrasound to rule out problems, but they don't expect problems because it changes.

So, you should pay attention to whether the lump changes at all with your cycle. That will be valuable information for your doctor to have.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:13 AM on March 5, 2012

My cancerous lump was grape sized and tough, like a superball. That said, there are many types of breast cancers, including inflammatory breast cancers that don't produce lumps at all. You probably don't have one of them, but why not put your mind at ease with a visit to a doctor?
posted by pickypicky at 8:16 AM on March 5, 2012

From what I know, it is more common that cancerous lumps are very hard and irregular in shape, while benign lumps tend to be softer and rounder. Cancerous lumps are less likely to be mobile.

Discharge and a lump together sound more like a cyst or an infection or a damaged duct than a tumor, possibly because of the binding, although IANAD. Are there good health resources about binders and ways to minimize consequences? From my limited knowledge, it seems like you could certainly irritate tissue and end up with various bleh consequences if you were already prone to them.

Remember that if you're diagnosed with an infection and it doesn't go away in ten days, you need a follow-up visit - that's one of the signs of inflammatory breast cancer, which is an aggressive, atypical cancer more likely to strike younger people. However, although it can produce infection-like symptoms, it generally does not produce a discrete lump...and "younger people" means "a few people in their twenties and thirties, more in the forties and then a meaningful age at onset in the fifties rather than sixties."
posted by Frowner at 8:24 AM on March 5, 2012

[Folks - OP is going to the doctor TOMORROW. Please read the entire question. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:35 AM on March 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

Do you have a history of breast cancer in your family? I'm guessing not otherwise you would have mentioned that. Anyway, Dr. Google confirms what I've always heard: the majority of breast lumps (like 80-85%) are not cancer, especially in women your age. Given your age, how many other reasons there are to have lumps and what I'm guessing is your lack of family history, you are much more likely to have something other than cancer. In any event, you're going to the doctor tomorrow, so in the unlikely event there really is something to worry about, you'll find out soon enough. You have the Internet's permission to postpone your worrying until then, okay?

As for my lump, I had a little one in my right breast (smaller than the size of a pea) that was hard but mobile. It was nothing and eventually went away on its own. My mom had a lump a few years ago that she had biopsied and that also turned out to be nothing. So, see? My mom and I are proof that a lot of lumps are no big deal.

Feel free to memail me if you'd like to discuss my mom's and my jugs. :) And good luck tomorrow.
posted by Maisie at 8:49 AM on March 5, 2012

Discharge sounds cystic to me. Does it get worse when you have caffeine? That's pretty indicative for cysts--they love caffeine for some reason.

Best of luck at the doctor's tomorrow.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:51 AM on March 5, 2012

Had something that sounded similar to this in my 20s. Freaked out, called a doctor, set up an appointment. It was actually a cyst, close to the surface, and it burst before I made it to the doctor's office. Blood and pus everywhere. Gross, but infinitely reassuring at the same time.
posted by instead of three wishes at 8:55 AM on March 5, 2012

The "what does a lump feel like" questions first:

1. The first time I went to the doctor for a lump, I felt something that felt like someone stuck a Tic-tac just under the skin. It moved around a little when I felt it, and it was pretty firm. I was freaked out, of course. But the sonogram revealed that it was just a cyst, and I was fine; it would go away in about a month, they said. It did. My doctor suggested that maybe I was just prone to cysts, so I may find other breast lumps over the course of my life; keep doing the BSEs, they said, but I could get away with waiting a few days before calling the doctor next time I found one.

2. The second time, there was a similar-feeling lump, but this one felt like a grape lodged under my skin. A little more "give" than before, but bigger. Went back to the doctor, had another sonogram, it was another cyst. That's when my doctor said, "Okay, I think for you we need to change the instructions for a BSE." And from then on, my instructions were "only see the doctor if you find a lump which doesn't go away all on its own within two months." They all have.

What the BSEs are supposed to do, my doctor explained, is help you get more acclimated to "what my breasts are supposed to feel like when everything's normal," so that you're better able to spot it when something that's NOT normal is there. It's not so much that "normal feels like THIS and abnormal feels like THAT," it's more like, you're getting more acquainted with how everything is supposed to feel so you can then be better able to pick up on, "hmm, that's not usually like that, what's up?" Even when everything is all clear, for me, the deep tissue actually feels a little lumpy. That's just the way my boobs roll, though, and I know that by now.

As for how you chill out -

1. Women just get breast lumps, and a huge number of those lumps are totally benign. They're cysts, or they're just benign growths, or just your body just Doing Weird Shit. The odds are HUGELY stacked in favor of it being something benign. That weird discharge you describe even sounds to me kind of like a skin thing.

2. Even if it isn't benign, you have caught it early, and that is really fucking good as far as your prognosis goes. But, again, it's OVERWHELMINGLY more likely that it isn't anything malignant anyway.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:36 AM on March 5, 2012

Get it checked out, but while you're waiting, you might try warm compresses on it to see if this will help it release the rest of the fluid and possibly take the whole thing down to nothing.
posted by Riverine at 12:57 PM on March 5, 2012

OP, I think a bunch of us are worried with you. Could you please memail me or a mod with the results of your appointment tomorrow? If you memail me, I will keep your identity confidential and post the results in the thread.

Thanks and again, good luck.
posted by Maisie at 2:47 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

OP was nice enough to write to me to tell me about her doctor's appointment yesterday in the late afternoon. We memailed back and forth. She gave me permission to post an update on her behalf. Here's what she said after her appointment:

"Ultrasound, bloodwork, surgeon visit to come."


"He just wanted a specialist to look at this immediately, so he got all the necessary tests in order before I went to them. It was the most half-assed breast exam I've ever received, actually – he pretty quickly determined 'yeah, let's get on this immediately'. So...I don't know.

Ugh. So we'll see, I guess? I'm a broke-ass grad student at the busiest point in my busiest semester, I totally can't take this right now."


"Yeah, in retrospect, I couldn't tell whether or not it was just him wanting to get through his last appointment at the end of a very busy day or if it was something very alarming that needed to get looked at by someone other than him. Ugh."


"I actually haven't gone for the tests yet - bloodwork today, ultrasound next friday the 16th (earliest I could get).

I just have a really bad feeling about the fact that a) he felt it immediately and seemed to know exactly what to do and b) the fact that he's getting me ready to see someone else so fast."

posted by Maisie at 1:12 PM on March 7, 2012

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