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Is an itchy, painful lump a sign of breast cancer?

I have a breast lump which is painful at times. It is also itchy and sometimes the area around it looks bruised. My GP says it is nothing to worry about, but it is getting bigger and I AM worried that it might be cancer. What should I do?

It is not possible for us to tell you whether your lump is breast cancer or not. But it may help to know that most breast lumps are not cancer. And the symptoms you describe are not generally caused by breast cancer. If the lump feels hot or is red, it may be a breast abscess (a lump caused by infection).

But a rare type of cancer called inflammatory breast cancer can cause symptoms such as redness, inflammation, itching and pain. And a condition called Paget's disease of the nipple, which is associated with breast cancer, can cause itchiness.

It is impossible for any doctor to make a definite diagnosis from looking at, or feeling a lump. So, it is best to go back to your doctor and insist on a referral to a specialist. You could take a relative or friend with you to support you if you like. The specialist can use tests such as mammogram and ultrasound to examine your breasts. They may also do a needle biopsy. This means putting a needle into the lump and taking out some cells for examination under the microscope.

These tests can show whether or not the lump is a cancer. If it is not a cancer you will be able to stop worrying. If it is a cancer, the earlier it is diagnosed the better the chance of successful treatment.

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Updated: 5 September 2012