Your breasts are naturally lumpy and bumpy
The breast is a lumpy organ, says Seema Khan, MD, professor of surgery at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. It’s helpful to know this, as women performing monthly self-exams endure a lot of unnecessary anxiety, testing, and biopsies after detecting what ended up being completely normal lumps and bumps. Get to know the architecture of your breasts, including which parts tend to be lumpier than others, so you can identify any changes if they occur. Be on the lookout for changes in the size or shape of the breast, discharge, and any itching, swelling, thickening, dimpling or other differences in the skin. (Related: These are breast cancer symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.) “If you suspect a change, contact your health care provider immediately so it can be evaluated,” advises Therese Bevers, MD, medical director of the Cancer Prevention Center at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. “If it feels different to you, you should take action.” For perspective, here are other things that lump in your breast could be besides cancer.
Your breasts change around your period
Your menstrual cycle plays a large role in the texture of your breasts—they feel lumpiest and most tender right before your period due to a rise in estrogen and progesterone levels. “If the breast feels different right before a period, let the period happen before you check again and then decide if you need to see a doctor or not,” Dr. Khan says. The best time to check your breasts is right after your period, when the tenderness dissipates and the lumpiness should return to your natural baseline. If it doesn’t, it might be time to set up a doctor’s appointment.