The three most common kinds of breast masses are fibroadenoma (a benign tumor), cysts, and breast cancer. The clinical characteristics of these masses are listed below. However, any breast mass should be carefully evaluated and usually warrants further investigation by ultrasound, aspiration, mammography, or biopsy. The masses depicted below are rather large, for purposes of illustration. Ideally, breast cancer should be identified early, when the mass is small. Fibrocystic changes, not illustrated, are also commonly palpable as nodular, ropelike densities in women ages 25-50. They may be tender or painful. They are considered benign and are not considered a risk factor for breast cancer.
Shape Consistency Delimitation Well delineated
15-25, usually puberty and young adulthood, 30-50, regress after menopause except with estrogen therapy
Retraction Signs but up to age 55
Usually single, may be multiple
Round, disclike, or lobular May be soft, usually firm
Usually nontender Absent
Single or multiple Round
Soft to firm, usually elastic Well delineated
Often tender Absent
30-90, most common over 50 in middle-aged and elderly women
Usually single, although may coexist with other nodules
Irregular or stellate
Firm or hard
Not clearly delineated from surrounding tissues
May be fixed to skin or underlying tissues
Usually nontender May be present
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