Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Breast Lump Underlying Cause

Breast Lump Breast Cancer

Genes control the functions inside a cell. Special genes control how cells divide and grow. In cancer cells, these genes are damaged. Cancer occurs when the damaged genes stimulate the cell to multiply out of control. The exact cause for this damage is unknown. Damaged genes can be inherited: the risk of cancer is higher if other family members have had cancer.

Cancer cells can develop from any tissues inside the breast: mild glands, mild ducts, fatty tissue or nipple. The cells can spread through the lymphatic system or the bloodstream. Breast cancer spreads most commonly to the bones, lungs, brain and liver.

Breast Lump Calcifications

Breast calcifications are areas where calcium has collected inside the breast. They develop normally as the breast ages. Usually, they occur as a reaction to infection, injury and fibrocystic disease. Breast calcifications are rarely a sign of breast cancer.

Breast Lump Duct Ectasia

Duct ectasia occurs when a woman reaches menopause. The milk ducts behind the nipple normally swell during menopause. Occasionally, fluid builds up in the milk duct, causing a lump in the breast. When this occurs, the fluid may drain from the nipple.

Breast Lump Fat Necrosis

Fat necrosis may occur when fatty tissue in the breast is damaged or breaks down. This results in the formation of a lump in the breast. Usually, fat necrosis is caused by an injury to the breast. The skin around the lump may be bruised, red or dimpled. Fat necrosis is more common in women who have large breasts.

Breast Lump Fibroadenomas

Fibroadenomas form when cells at the end of the milk ducts continue to grow slowly. Fibroadenomas are a normal part of development and aging and the cells eventually stop growing. Fibroadenomas do not lead to cancer.

Breast Lump Mastitis

Mastitis is an infection of the breast that occurs when a women is breast-feeding. Bacteria from the surface of the skin, or bacteria from the infant's mouth, cause the infection. The bacteria start to grow in the milk ducts, which causes redness, swelling and pain.

Mastitis is rare in women who are not breast-feeding.

Breast Lump Papillomas

The areola is the red-brown skin that surrounds the nipple. A papilloma is an overgrowth of milk duct cells, which form a lump under the areola. A papilloma may cause a clear or bloody fluid to leak from the nipple. Papillomas do not cause cancer.

Continue to Breast Lump Anatomy

Last Updated: Jan 26, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Breast Lump References
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  2. Greydanus DE, Parks DS, Farrell EG: Breast disorders in children and adolescents. Pediatr Clin North Am 1989 Jun; 36(3): 601-38. [2543947]
  3. Norlock FE: Benign breast pain in women: a practical approach to evaluation and treatment. J Am Med Womens Assoc 2002 Spring; 57(2): 85-90. [11991427]
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