Questions About Cancer? 1-800-4-CANCER

Understanding Breast Changes: A Health Guide for Women

  • Updated: 03/25/2014

Check With Your Health Care Provider About Breast Changes

Check with your health care provider if you notice that your breast looks or feels different. No change is too small to ask about. In fact, the best time to call is when you first notice a breast change.

Breast changes to see your health care provider about:

A lump (mass) or a firm feeling

  • A lump in or near your breast or under your arm
  • Thick or firm tissue in or near your breast or under your arm
  • A change in the size or shape of your breast

Lumps come in different shapes and sizes. Most lumps are not cancer.

If you notice a lump in one breast, check your other breast. If both breasts feel the same, it may be normal. Normal breast tissue can sometimes feel lumpy.

Some women do regular breast self-exams. Doing breast self-exams can help you learn how your breasts normally feel and make it easier to notice and find any changes. Breast self-exams are not a substitute for mammograms.

Always get a lump checked. Don't wait until your next mammogram. You may need to have tests to be sure that the lump is not cancer.

Nipple discharge or changes

  • Nipple discharge (fluid that is not breast milk)
  • Nipple changes, such as a nipple that points or faces inward (inverted) into the breast

Nipple discharge may be different colors or textures. Nipple discharge is not usually a sign of cancer. It can be caused by birth control pills, some medicines, and infections.

Get nipple discharge checked, especially fluid that comes out by itself or fluid that is bloody.

Skin changes

  • Itching, redness, scaling, dimples, or puckers on your breast
If the skin on your breast changes, get it checked as soon as possible.
"I was in the shower one morning, when I felt a small lump in my breast. I was afraid and busy, but I didn't let that stop me. I made an appointment to see my doctor. I got the answers I needed."

Talk with your health care provider.

It can help to prepare before you meet with your health care provider. Use the list below. Write down the breast changes you notice, as well as your personal medical history and your family medical history before your visit.

Tell your health care provider about breast changes or problems:

  • These are the breast changes or problems I have noticed:



     
  • This is what the breast change looks or feels like: (For example: Is the lump hard or soft? Does your breast feel tender or swollen? How big is the lump? What color is the nipple discharge?)



     
  • This is where the breast change is: (For example: What part of the breast feels different? Do both breasts feel different or only one breast?)

  • This is when I first noticed the breast change:

  • Since then, this is the change I've noticed: (For example: Has it stayed the same or gotten worse?)



     

Share your personal medical history:

  • I've had these breast problems in the past:

  • These are the breast exams and tests that I have had:

  • My last mammogram was on this date:

  • My last menstrual period began on this date:

  • These are the medicines or herbs that I take:

  • Right now, I:
    • Have breast implants
    • Am pregnant
    • Am breastfeeding
  • I've had this type of cancer before:

Share your family medical history:

  • My family members have had these breast problems or diseases:

  • These family members had breast cancer:

  • They were this old when they had breast cancer:

For a printable checklist, please see page 6 of the Understanding Breast Changes: A Health Guide for Women pdf.