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Finding a breast lump or some other change in your breast may stir fears of breast cancer, and understandably so. Try not to worry. The odds are in your favor. Most breast lumps, as many as four out of five that are biopsied are noncancerous (benign). But it’s still important to have the breast lump evaluated by a doctor to be certain you don’t have cancer. If evaluation of the breast lump reveals breast cancer, you’ve taken a vital step toward dealing with the disease. Early detection gives you the best chance for successful treatment.

During a breast self-exam, you’ll feel tissues of varying consistency. Glandular tissue usually feels firm and slightly rope-like, bumpy or lumpy (nodular); it’s primarily felt in the upper, outer region of your breast. Surrounding fat tissue is soft; it’s often felt in the inner and lower portions of your breast. The contrast between these two types of tissue is often more pronounced just before your period due to hormonal influences on the breast.

If you’ve found a breast lump or detected a change in one of your breasts, check your other breast. Some lumpiness may be normal — especially if your other breast feels the same to you.

But make an appointment with your doctor if:

• The breast lump is new or unusual and feels different from breast tissue in that breast or your other breast.

• The breast lump doesn’t go away after your next menstrual period.

• You notice the breast lump has changed, for instance it gets bigger or becomes firmer.

• You have bloody, possibly spontaneous, discharge from your nipple.

• You notice skin changes on your breast, such as redness, crusting, dimpling or puckering.

• Your nipple is turned inward (inverted), although it isn’t normally positioned that way.

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