In most cases, a benign (non-cancerous) breast lump does not need any treatment unless the lump is particularly large or painful. After diagnosing the cause (see Breast lump - causes), your GP will advise you about any treatment that is necessary. If treatment is not necessary, you may be asked to return if you notice any further changes to your breasts.
You should visit your GP as soon as possible if you experience breast pain. They will be able to carry out a physical examination and, if necessary, refer you for further tests.
See the Health A-Z topic about Cyclical breast pain for more information about treating breast pain that is related to your menstrual cycle.
If your breast pain is not related to your menstrual cycle, you can ease the pain by:
When using painkillers you should always check the instructions on the packet or the patient information leaflet to make sure the medication is suitable for you and to find out the correct dose.
Danazol is a medication that can be used to treat the pain that is associated with benign fibrocystic breast disease (fibroadenosis), if other treatments have been unsuccessful.
Danazol is only available on prescription and usually comes as a capsule to be swallowed. It is not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women and can cause some side effects such as:
- feeling sick
- a rash
- weight gain
For a full list of side effects or more information about this medicine, see the patient information leaflet that comes with it.
Other treatment methods
Some experts have suggested that breast pain may be improved by reducing your intake of:
- caffeine, which is found in tea, coffee and cola
- saturated fat, which is found in butter, crisps and fried food
However, the benefits of making these dietary changes have not been proven.
If a lump in your breast has been diagnosed as benign it will not usually need to be removed. However, if a lump is large, growing or is causing other symptoms, you may need to have surgery. For example, you may need surgery if you have:
- Fat necrosis, which causes a hard irregular lump that may be removed if it continues to get bigger.
- Intraductal papilloma, which is a benign growth in a milk duct (the tube that carries milk). The affected ducts may be removed if they continue to cause nipple discharge or inflammation.
Some women decide to have a fibroadenoma (tumour) surgically removed, particularly if it is large. The surgical procedure to remove a lump in your breast is called a lumpectomy and may be carried out under general anaesthetic. This is painkilling medication that makes you unconscious.
An alternative method to remove a fibroadenoma is to destroy it with a laser (a high-energy light beam). The procedure is carried out under local anaesthetic, which means you will be awake. The laser is inside a fibre which is inserted through a needle and positioned inside the lump. Waves of light are then passed through the fibre to destroy the lump.
The safety and effectiveness of using lasers to treat breast lumps is still uncertain, and one study reported that most women found it painful. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has stated that laser therapy for fibroadenomas should only be carried out within specialist breast services and with proper monitoring.
A small needle and syringe is sometimes used to draw out the fluid from breast cysts. This is called aspiration. After the cyst has been drained the lump usually disappears. The fluid may be sent to the laboratory for examination under the microscope.
Sometimes, breast cysts that have been drained can refill, or you may develop a new cyst somewhere else. You should always visit your GP if you notice any changes to your breasts, such as a cyst refilling. The cyst can be drained again, but if it keeps refilling you may need to have surgery to remove it.
A breast abscess is a painful collection of pus that can be treated by making an incision (cut) into the abscess and draining out the pus.
See the Health A-Z topic about Breast abscess - treatment for more information.