Pregnancy causes big changes in your breasts. These changes are driven by hormones that prepare your breasts for breastfeeding. Glands in your breasts enlarge, milk ducts multiply, and blood flow increases through your breasts. These changes may double the size and weight of your breasts. They may also cause breast lumps.
Breast lumps are more common during pregnancy and during breastfeeding. Almost all of these breast lumps are benign, not cancer. But that does not mean you can ignore them. Pregnancy does not increase your risk of breast cancer but breast cancer can still occur. Lumps causes by infection may need treatment.
You will start to see obvious changes in your breasts during your second trimester. These include:
- Increased size and weight
- Tenderness and sensitivity
- Nipple darkening, enlargement, and bumpiness
- Visible veins under the skin
During your second trimester, you may have leaking of early breast milk called colostrum. This pale yellow fluid may leak when you are sexually stimulated or your breasts are massaged. Not all women have colostrum. This does not mean you won’t have breast milk. Some women may have slight, bloody nipple discharge during the third trimester. This is also normal.
Common Breast Lumps
Clogged milk ducts can cause breast lumps during pregnancy or during breastfeeding. A clogged milk duct may feel hard and tender. It may appear reddened. Many benign growths that are commonly found in breasts may get bigger during pregnancy. Some of these are fluid-filled cysts and some are solid. Solid lumps are more likely to be cancer. But rememeber, breast cancer only occurs in about one out of 3,000 pregnancies.
Lumps caused by infection are more common during breast feeding than pregnancy. The infection often comes from bacteria that live in a baby’s nose or throat. These bacteria can spread into the breast and cause swelling, redness, and tenderness. You may have a fever and other flu-like symptoms. Call your doctor right away, but do not stop breast feeding. The infection spreads faster if you have backed up milk. You may need to take antibiotics.
What Happens If You Have a Lump?
You should continue to examine your breast during pregnancy every few weeks during pregnancy. Always let your doctor know about any changes. Keep all your prenatal appointments. It will be important for your doctor to do a breast exam at your first visit. This baseline exam will help your doctor notice changes in later visits. Routine mammography exams are not done during pregnancy. There is a small risk of radiation exposure and these exams are not very reliable due to the changes in your breasts.
Lumps caused by blocked breast ducts will often clear with warm compresses, massage or a hot shower. If a lump needs to be evaluated, your doctor may start with an ultrasound exam. This exam creates an image of your breast using sound waves. It can tell, if the lump is solid or cystic. If the lump seems suspicious, your doctor may want you to have a needle biopsy or aspiration. In the rare event of finding cancer in a biopsy, pregnancy usually proceeds along with cancer treatment. Breast surgery may be done and some cancer drugs can be used.
- Breast Lumps During Pregnancy Are Common
- Cancer is possible but extremely rare.
- Let your doctor know about any breast lumps.
- Let your doctor know right away about any sudden changes.
- Let your doctor know right away about a painful, red, and warm breast.
- Never wait to tell your doctor about a breast lump until after delivery or after breastfeeding.