Characteristics of a breast cancer lump

Updated April 17, 2017

A breast lump can have many different characteristics and it can sometimes be hard for a person to describe exactly what the lumps feels like and how large it appears to be. Having an idea of what it can be compared to can help. None of the characteristics of a breast lump can be considered an indicator of malignancy or non-malignancy. Only diagnostic procedures can determine that.


A breast lump can feel either hard or soft. If it feels hard, it will resemble a rock, a marble or other hard object. A soft breast lump can be compared to the texture of a gelatin dessert or a sponge. A lump that resembles a sponge in feel may even give the sensation of liquid being displaced, while one that resembles the gelatin dessert may feel as if it can be pressed in, but then will return to its original shape. A soft breast lump may feel harder when felt standing up, then feel softer when one is lying down.


Categorising a breast lump as small or large allows for too many generalities. Comparison to ordinary objects, however can help one determine approximately what dimensions a breast lump may have. A frozen English pea is a good thing to use for size comparison for lumps that can be considered small. An ordinary playing marble; that is, one that is not used for shooting can be used for a slightly larger lump. A ball that is used for playing jacks can be used for the next size category. A breast lump that is larger than a jacks ball will most likely be visible, unless it is underneath the breast, and will be considered to be large. From there, the size can be described to the health care provider as being as large as a ping-pong ball to being larger than a ping-pong ball.


Pain may be present with a breast lump, no matter what the size and then there may be no pain at all. The area around the lump may hurt or it may only hurt to touch the lump or the area around it.


A breast lump may be stationary, especially if it is hard, or it may seem to change location or position if it is soft. A hard lump will not move if the arms are raised above the head, or if one lies down and turns from side to side. A soft breast lump may seem to rise or fall slightly if arms are raised, and move from one side or area of the breast to the other when one is lying down and changes positions.


Breast lumps can be found in any area on or around the breast. This includes the underarm area and the area where the ribs can be felt below the breast. One should not assume that a breast lump will always be exactly on the breast itself.

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About the Author

Jessica Anne Elizabeth, co-founder of, is an established freelance writer and editor with a expertise in the beauty industry. Her areas of interest include hair, make-up and skincare, as well as reproductive health and pregnancy. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Rutgers University.