Breast lumps are common in women but can also be present in men. Gynecomastia is the term used to describe abnormal enlargement of breasts in men.
A lump under the nipple or behind the nipple is often thought to be a sign of cancer. Statistics show that only about 10% of all breast lumps are cancerous. All the same, it is always advisable to get assurance from a doctor.
Most breast lumps do not require special medical treatment. Some will also not cause any pain or discomfort. This article discusses more about lumps under the nipple or behind the nipple in both men and women. Note that your doctor will always be in the best position to decide if such a lump should be medically treated or not.
Painful lump under nipple in women
Any of the following conditions can cause a painful lump under the nipple in women:
Abscesses under the nipple often develop when bacteria is passed from the mouth of a breastfeeding child into the nipple. Women who haven’t had children can also develop an abscess, but very rarely. Abscesses are accompanied by symptoms such as skin redness, pain, skin tenderness, burning sensation and fever. An abscess can develop anywhere on the skin, including the mouth, to cause a soft painful lump on roof of mouth.
Mastitis is an infection of the breasts which can cause a painful lump under nipple, mostly in breastfeeding women. It occurs when milk ducts do not fully empty or bacteria gain access into breast tissue. Other symptoms of mastitis include skin redness, pain, burning sensation, breast swelling and tenderness. You may also experience painful lump in throat feeling or in the armpit due to swollen lymph nodes.
Fibroadenomas form when the connective tissue clumps with a healthy gland in the breast. They are common in outer section of the breast. Normally, fibroadenomas are not painful. Some however grow large and start to hurt if not removed. Large fibroadenomas lumps are common in teenage females.
Women may also experience cyclical or non-cyclical breast pain. Both conditions are rarely accompanied by lumps. Cyclical breast pain occurs about a week before menstruation while non-cyclical can occur any time.
Soft, tender, rubbery, movable lump under nipple female breasts
Breast cysts are very common. They form as pockets filled with fluid under skin. A cystic lump on breast is usually tender, rubbery and smooth. Most will move a bit when pressed. Women below the age of 50 years are more prone to breast cysts.
Sebaceous cysts develop on hair follicles. Like any other part of the skin, the nipple contains a number of hair follicles. These can get clogged to form a tender lump under nipple which moves freely when pressed. Sebaceous cysts are best removed through minor surgery. Apart from the nipple, sebaceous cysts are common causes of lump on outside of eyelid, on vulva and on cheeks.
Lipomas are clumped fat cells that form under the skin. A lipoma lump feels rubbery and soft. It also freely moves if pressed with a finger. In some cases, you may also feel other smaller almost similar lumps close to the initial large one.
Just behind the nipple, structures known as glandular cells are located. They are responsible for milk production in the breast. These glands sometimes clump together to form a lump behind nipple female breasts. The resulting lumps are usually round and smooth but not movable. About 50% of all adenoma lumps are painful.
A Hamartoma is a benign tumor that develops on body tissues, including the breast and nipple. The tumors require no special treatment but can be surgically removed if necessary.
A small wart-like lump behind nipple
A small lump appearing behind the nipple and resembling a wart is known as an intraductal papilloma. In some women, the lump will ooze a clear discharge and be painful.
If the lump is not causing any form of discomfort, it can be left alone without treatment. It will not ultimately develop into cancer or increase risk of contracting cancer of the breasts. The lump can as well be surgically removed in a clinic.
Hard lump behind nipple or under nipple
A hard lump behind or under the nipple should cause you to be concerned. In most cases, cancerous lumps are hard, immovable and irregularly shaped. They develop on the adipose tissue or the lymphatic system of breasts.
Note that breast tissue extends all the way to near the armpit. A breast cancer lump doesn’t necessarily have to start under the nipple. It can start anywhere on the breast and spread even to other body parts. In fact, cancerous cells will always spread if left untreated. A lump on left side of stomach no pain can for example be a sign of metastasized cancer.
Women are advised to perform regular breast self-examinations. Such exams help identify a breast lump which can be checked for signs of cancer in a medical diagnosis.
Cancerous lumps will always keep growing in size. They are rarely painful, especially in the beginning. Unlike most breast lumps, cancerous lumps are immovable and irregular in shape. All the same, some can develop in form of painful or smooth breast lumps.
Other possible causes of lump behind nipple
It is normal to feel like you are having a cluster of lumps in the breast some time before menstruation. This feeling is mostly felt near the nipples and in the upper part. The affected areas will feel thicker. This condition is not harmful and usually resolves after the menstrual period. In women on hormone therapy, it may persist even after the period.
If you have sustained any form of injury to the breast tissue, a lump due to fat necrosis may develop. Fat necrosis lumps form after fat cells in breast tissue harden to form round painless lumps. These lumps can easily be confused with cancerous lumps. They however are benign and resolve on their own. The problem is that a permanent scar may be left behind after recovery.
Just like swollen blood veins form pea sized lump in anus, a blood clot in the nipple or breast tissue may be responsible for a lump in the region. Lumps on the nipple due to blood clots are not common however.
Lump under nipple male breasts
A lump under the breast on a male breast can be caused by gynecomastia or cancer. Breast cancer in men is very rare however.
Gynecomastia is caused by imbalance of estrogen and testosterone. Apart from hormonal imbalance, certain medications, anabolic steroids and drugs such as heroine can cause gynecomastia. It is common during puberty. Common symptoms include swelling of the breast tissue, breast tenderness and sometimes pain.
A good number of infant males develop gynecomastia due to presence of estrogen imparted by their mothers. The condition generally resolves after about 3 weeks. During puberty, gynecomastia lumps can last up to 2 years. Men over the age of 50 years also show a tendency of developing gynecomastia.
Lumps due to gynecomastia are not harmful but can be of discomfort. If necessary, your doctor will surgically remove the lump or prescribe medications to treat the condition.
If you suspect of having gynecomastia, quit any intake of medications or supplements that may alter your hormone levels. Also, quit abuse of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin.
As mentioned earlier, breast cancer in men is very rare. Only about 0.8% of all breast cancer cases will be reported in men.
Cancerous lumps are usually hard, immovable and painless. The typical characteristic is continuous increment in size and mass. Since men tend to ignore breast lumps, advanced symptoms of cancer such as swollen lymph nodes, nipple discharge and lumps on other parts of the body may also occur. In this regard, more information on what does a testicular lump feel like may be of help. This is because breast cancer in males has shown a tendency of being associated with testicular cancer.
No matter the odds, it is always very advisable to have a lump under or behind the nipple checked by a doctor.
When to see a doctor for a lump behind or under nipple
As you can see, most cases of lumps behind the nipple or under the nipple are fairly benign. See your doctor if any of the following is to happen:
- You come from a family line with a history of cancer
- You notice a hard, immovable lump that keeps gaining mass
- There is discharge from the affected nipple
- Breast skin becomes wrinkled or has dimples
- You have an inverted nipple
- The lump is causing any form of discomfort such as pain, fever or skin tenderness
- You notice other lumps such as hard lump under chin, in the groin region, in armpit or throat.
Depending on the cause and the size of the lump, a number of diagnosis tests and treatments are available. Diagnosis can be done through physical examination, which includes comparison with available pictures for breast lumps. Medical tests include biopsies, MRIs, ultrasound imaging and mammograms.
Treatment can be done with medications or through surgical removal of the lumps.