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Breast lumps

Most breast lumps are harmless but some can be serious. Find out what causes breast lumps. You should always get a lump in your breast checked by a GP.

If you feel a lump in your breast, you should always get it checked by a GP. Most breast lumps are harmless but some can be serious.

See a GP if you notice:

  • a lump in your breast or armpit
  • any other unusual changes in your breasts – such as the nipple turning inwards, dimpled skin or bloodstained nipple discharge

Changes in the breasts can be a sign of breast cancer. This is easier to treat if it's found early.

What happens at your GP appointment

The GP will look at and examine your breasts.

If they're not sure what's causing the lump, they'll refer you to a hospital or breast clinic for further tests.

These tests usually show that a lump isn't cancer.

What happens at the breast clinic

At the hospital or breast clinic, you may have a:

  • breast examination
  • scan – usually a breast X-ray (mammogram) or ultrasound
  • biopsy – where a needle is inserted into the lump to remove some cells for testing

These tests are often done during the same visit. You'll usually be told the results on the same day, although biopsy results take longer. You should get them within a week.

Treatment for a lump depends on the cause. Most are harmless and may go away on their own without treatment.

Causes of breast lumps

Lumps in the breasts can have lots of different causes.

Most are due to something harmless, such as a non-cancerous tissue growth (fibroadenoma) or a build-up of fluid (breast cyst).

But sometimes they can be a sign of something serious, such as breast cancer.

Don't try to self-diagnose the cause of your lump – always see a GP.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.

Page last reviewed: 16/05/2019
Next review due: 16/05/2022