Breast Lumps: Normal for Pregnancy?

I am 32 weeks pregnant with my second child. I found some tiny hard lumps near my left armpit. They are tender and sometimes a bit painful. I am worried because I have a family history of cancer. Should I be concerned?

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Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

Breast lumps may occur normally in pregnancy, especially in the third trimester when the breasts are getting ready for lactation. Such masses are typically soft, mobile and occur in both breasts. They may be tender. A tail of breast tissue may extend into the axillae or armpit area.

Breast cancer is uncommon in pregnancy but it does occur. Approximately one to two percent of breast cancers are diagnosed in pregnancy. The prognosis is similar whether the cancer is diagnosed during pregnancy or at another time.

It is never a good idea to reassure a pregnant woman that any mass she feels is insignificant. Pregnancy often delays a diagnosis of breast cancer because providers and women themselves feel that the lump was pregnancy related.

Your own provider should do a complete breast exam and possibly refer you for an ultrasound. Ultrasound can distinguish between cysts and solid masses but breast biopsy should still be performed if the mass is suspicious.

Thanks for asking this critical question and for not ignoring this situation. It is very important for your care provider to take this seriously despite the fact that it may be a perfectly normal finding.

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