A breast lump in pregnancy is common and usually benign. However, it is not a matter of concern whenever you feel a small lump while self-checking your breasts. Checking with your doctor helps correct diagnosis and essential treatment to avoid negative pregnancy outcomes.
Read on the post to understand how to check for breast lumps, the causes, different breast changes, and treatments.
What Is A Breast Lump?
A breast lump is a mass of breast tissue clumped together (1). It can develop within the breast or appear as a protrusion. The common causes of breast lumps in pregnant women are benign growths of fibrous tissue, breast tissue changes, or milk duct blockage.
What Are The Types Of Breast Lumps?
Breast lumps are not always malignant or cancerous. They are mostly benign and resolve without intervention. The types of breast lumps that are commonly seen in women are:
- Non-proliferative lesions: They are most commonly found in breast screenings. These lesions are not malignant but may increase the risk of malignancy by 50% (2).
- Proliferative lesions without atypia: This breast lesion is caused by the excessive growth of the cells that carry milk to the nipples or produce milk. This condition could double the risk of breast cancer (3).
- Atypical hyperplasia: It indicates the presence of abnormal cells in the breasts that are benign. However, it indicates a higher risk for breast cancer (4).
How Can You Check For A Breast Lump?
Regularly self-examining your breasts can help you identify the presence of a breast lump as you can easily figure out any abnormalities. Here are the steps for breast self-inspection (5):
- Visual inspection: Stand naked in front of a mirror. With your arms at your sides, look for swellings or protrusions on your breasts and changes in the nipples. Then, repeat this exercise with your arms over your head. Make sure to check both breasts.
- Manual inspection: With your right hand, examine your left breast and vice-versa. In a circular motion, slowly press your fingers around your breast while increasing the intensity of pressure. Remember to gently squeeze your nipples and the areas near them to check for any discharge. You can perform this inspection while lying down or standing.
What Causes Breast Lumps During Pregnancy?
Breast lumps during pregnancy may be formed due to various hormonal fluctuations or physiological changes. Some benign conditions that commonly cause breast lumps in pregnancy include (6)
- Lactating adenoma, a breast lesion occurring during late pregnancy or lactation (7)
- Fibroadenoma, a benign breast tumor comprising glandular tissue and connective tissue (8)
- Galactocele formation (milk cyst formed by an obstruction in the lactiferous duct)
- Mastitis, a breast tissue infection that causes inflammation (increase in breast mass) and pain (9)
How Are Breast Lumps Treated During Pregnancy?
The treatment for breast lumps during pregnancy depends on the cause of the lumps. Sometimes, it can be cured at home with a warm compress and massage. However, consult your healthcare provider to avoid misidentifying an underlying condition. Some treatment measures for breast lumps during pregnancy are as follows (1) (10):
- Surgical drainage of the fluid for breast cysts
- Biopsy or breast surgery
- Mastectomy (removing the entire breast) for malignant lumps
- Lumpectomy (removing the part containing cancer)
What Other Breast Changes Occur During Pregnancy?
During pregnancy, multiple physical and hormonal changes occur in the female body. Some changes you may observe in your breast during pregnancy are as follows (11):
- Increase in breast size at around six to eight weeks
- Darkening of the nipples and area around them (areola)
- Breast tenderness
- Nipple hypersensitivity
- Dark veins in the breasts due to the increased blood supply
- Protruded nipples and nipple discharge
- Small bumps around the nipple (Montgomery’s tubercles)
- Enlarged nipples
When Should You See A Doctor?
Benign breast lumps usually disappear within four to six weeks. However, if the lump persists and is painful, consult your doctor. Other signs and symptoms that may indicate a malignant lump are (1)
- Redness and tenderness in the area of the lump
- Inverted nipple
- The lump is harder than the rest of the breast
- Nipple discharge containing blood
Noticing breast lumps during pregnancy is common. These lumps are usually benign and caused by blocked milk ducts or an infection. The lumps usually disappear within a few days of massage. However, consult a health professional if the lumps do not go away and cause pain.
- Breast lumps.
- Kathryn Malherbe et al.; (2021); Fibrocystic breast disease.
- Certain Breast Changes.
- Atypical hyperplasia.
- Breast self-exam.
- Benign Breast Changes Associated With Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
- Reddy Ravikanth and Kanagasabai Kamalasekar; (2019); Imaging of lactating adenoma: differential diagnosis of solid mass lesion in a lactating woman.
- Fibroadenomas of the breast.
- Treating Breast Cancer During Pregnancy.
- Breast changes during pregnancy.