What's this lump?

Dear Dr Mitchell,

For my last two cycles I've noticed that around a day before it starts, I've gotten this lump on my left breast near my armpit area. It is always sore when it pops up, and then goes away after my period ends. What could it be?

The lump under your left breast that you have noticed since your last two menstrual cycles needs proper evaluation to determine the underlying cause. The fact that it seems to show up when the period ends is very reassuring. It is most likely a simple cyst in the breast which is hormone-dependent so it becomes tender when it increases in size. It could also be a lymph node that becomes tender and increase in size with the onset of the menstrual period.

It is important that you consult your doctor to get a breast examination done to determine if this swelling still persists, and also to determine if it is solid or cystic. It is also important to determine if the swelling or lump is fixed or freely mobile. Lumps that are fixed to the skin or underlying tissues are more likely to be suggestive of breast cancer and need urgent evaluation. An inflamed breast cyst can also present with pain and the use of antibiotics can help to reduce the pain and cause the cyst to disappear.

A breast ultrasound with a mammogram may be needed to determine the nature of the breast lump. If these are still not conclusive then a breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) should be done to be absolutely sure.

If you have a family history of breast cancer it is absolutely important to see your doctor and have an urgent evaluation done. If you are over 40 years old then you should consider doing your regular-screening mammogram, with a breast MRI done once every four years to rule out early signs of breast cancer.

Consult your doctor who will advise you further.

Best regards.

Dr Sharmaine Mitchell is an obstetrician and gynaecologist. Send questions via e-mail to allwoman@jamaicaobserver.com; write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5 or fax to 876-968-2025. All responses are published. Dr Mitchell cannot provide personal responses.


The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to medical advice or treatment from your own doctor.

Sharmaine Mitchell

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