Dr Ayman Mahfouz

Breast Lumps: Causes, Symptoms & Ultrasound’s Diagnostic Role

March 24, 2023, 21:03 Breast, Ultrasound

Breast lumps are not always cancerous, and many are harmless.

However, if you have found a lump in your breast, it’s best to have it checked by a qualified healthcare professional.

In this article, we’ll cover the different types of lumps in the breast, their potential causes and symptoms, and how an ultrasound scan can help you get the answers you deserve.

Let’s get started.

Understanding different types of breast lumps

Breast lumps come in many different shapes, sizes, and textures. 

They can be painful or painless; some may even move around when you touch them. Here are some of the most common types of breast lumps:

  • Cysts Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that can develop in the breast. They are usually round or oval in shape and can range in size from a pea to a golf ball. Cysts are generally painless and will move around when touched.  They are often diagnosed through ultrasound, and a doctor may recommend draining the fluid if it’s causing discomfort.

  • Fibroadenomas These are benign lumps made of fibrous and glandular tissue.  Fibroadenomas are typically firm and round and will also shift beneath the skin when pressure is applied.  They are most common in women under 30 and are usually diagnosed through ultrasound. Sometimes, a doctor may recommend removing a fibroadenoma if it’s painful or growing quickly.

  • Fat necrosis This occurs when fat cells build up in the breast. The lump can feel firm or rubbery and may be accompanied by dimpling or skin redness.  Fat necrosis is usually benign and may not require treatment.  However, a specialist may suggest further testing if the lump feels hard or irregular.

  • Calcifications Tiny mineral deposits in the breast tissue can sometimes feel like lumps. Calcifications are often benign and don’t typically require treatment, but your healthcare team may advise you to undertake further testing if the lumps are larger than 1 millimetre or have grown in a cluster.

  • Breast cancer This is the most concerning type of lump in the breast.  It can feel hard, painless, and fixed in place. Breast cancer can also cause other symptoms, such as changes in the size or shape of the breast, skin dimpling, and nipple discharge.

If you have any concerns about a lump in your breast, it’s vital to see a specialist you trust.

The sooner you get answers, the sooner you can kick-start your journey to health and vitality.

What causes breast lumps?

Breast lumps have a variety of causes, including hormonal changes, physical trauma, and underlying health conditions.

Hormonal fluctuations, such as those experienced during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, can trigger the development of breast lumps.

Physical trauma, such as a fall or a blow to the chest, can also lead to the formation of lumps.

Certain medical conditions, including fibrocystic breast disease and lupus, can also result in the growth of lumps in the breast.

Some breast lumps simply do not have a clear cause. Regardless, it’s always best to have any breast lump evaluated by your preferred healthcare professional.

Symptoms of breast lumps

In addition to the lump itself, you may also experience the following symptoms:

  • Tenderness or pain in the breast

  • Changes in your breast’s size or shape

  • Nipple discharge

  • Nipple inversion

  • Skin dimpling

  • Redness or warmth over the lump

In some cases, a breast lump will not cause additional symptoms. 

That’s why checking your breasts for changes and following up with your doctor if you find an abnormality is key to early detection.

What can an ultrasound show?

When diagnosing breast lumps, ultrasound plays a leading role.

Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to generate images of the inside of your breast.

This non-invasive, pain-free test provides clear, detailed images of the soft tissue in your breast, allowing your specialist to identify any lumps or suspicious areas.

How does an ultrasound help with diagnosis?

If you suspect you have a breast lump, an ultrasound is an integral step in your journey to diagnosis.

Breast ultrasound scans can detect cysts, one of the most common types of breast lumps which are usually harmless.

By looking at the fluid pattern within the lump on the ultrasound monitor, your experienced specialist can tell you if a lump is a cyst or not.

If not, the lump may be solid. Solid lumps may be more concerning and can indicate a range of conditions, including fibroadenomas and breast cancer.

An ultrasound can help determine if a solid lump is benign or malignant and provide essential information for biopsy or further treatment.

How is an ultrasound performed?

Ultrasound is a simple, non-invasive test that can provide valuable information about any breast lumps. Here’s what you can expect during your ultrasound appointment:


You do not need to prepare for an ultrasound in any specific way. However, it is best to wear a two-piece outfit for the appointment, as you will need to remove your top.

The procedure

Your specialist will apply a gel to the area of your breast being examined.

This helps to conduct the sound waves. They will then glide a handheld device across your skin.

This device, called a transducer, emits harmless sound waves, which bounce back and create an image of the inside of your breast.

Your specialist can see the pictures on a screen, guiding you through the process and findings every step of the way.

If you have any questions throughout, please do not hesitate to ask.

The procedure is painless and typically takes around half an hour.

After the exam, your specialist will gently remove the gel from your skin and give you privacy so you can get dressed.

What happens after the ultrasound?

After your ultrasound appointment, your specialist will review the images and provide you with a report.

At Harley Street Ultrasound, we don’t leave you waiting – you will receive your results on the same day as your exam, with all images sent directly to your nominated email address for total convenience and peace of mind.

Keep in mind that ultrasound is just one part of the diagnostic puzzle, and you may need additional tests.

If further tests are necessary, your specialist will discuss this with you and make the necessary arrangements.

Take action for your health

If you have noticed a lump in your breast, seek answers as soon as possible – there is nothing more important than your health.

Then it’s likely not a cause for concern, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Harley Street Ultrasound is a leading private breast clinic in London, and our high-quality specialists and compassionate team are dedicated to making you feel comfortable and supported.

With the right care and guidance, you can take meaningful steps to safeguard your health and wellbeing.

Book an appointment today and let the experts at Harley Street Ultrasound help you feel reassured.

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