Self Breast Exam | Good Lumps vs. Bad Lumps

When it comes to teaching women about menopause, I’m shocked at the things doctors say that automatically set their patients up for failure. One of those things falls into the realm of breast self-exam.

When a doctor tells you to check your breasts, they usually tell you to feel for “lumps.” Most patients nod their heads when they hear this, and supposedly carry out that exercise with nary a problem.


Most women who feel for “lumps” probably discover that their breasts have lumps … a lot of them.

How do you succeed at carrying out a breast self-exam when your breasts are already full of lumps? How do you tell the bad lumps from the lumps that just exist in your breast tissue?

The doctors mean well. And the patient has every intention of following the doctor’s recommendation. But the word choice for the entire breast self-exam is all wrong.

All breasts are lumpy, and in medical terminology, that lumpy tissue is called “fibrocystic tissue yyfsb7j.”

What is fibrocystic tissue?

The fibrocystic tissue is what you have in mass quantities in your breasts when you’re young. It’s what makes your breasts shapely, perky, and firm. We like the stuff! It’s sexy, it’s normal, and we all have it.

But you lose fibrocystic tissue as you march through life. Pregnancy, breastfeeding, weight gain, and aging all contribute to loss of your fibrocystic tissue. And when you lose fibrocystic tissue, it gets replaced with fat.

While fibrocystic tissue is very lumpy, fat is not nearly as lumpy. So, your breasts are lumpier before you get pregnant, breastfeed, gain weight and age. And they’re less lumpy after all that.

If you’re a young woman with plenty of lumpy fibrocystic tissue and you feel for lumps, you’re going to find lumps! Just like the Doctor told you to feel for during the breast self-exam, which defeats the whole purpose of the breast self-exam. You don’t want to feel for lumps; you want to feel for ‘rocks’ or ‘pebbles.’


A “lump” is poorly defined, whereas a “rock” or “pebble” is well-defined. A “lump” is squishy or deformable, whereas a “rock” or “pebble” is hard and non-deformable. A “lump” is not distinct, but a “rock” or “pebble” is evident. It has well-defined borders and feels distinctly different from the surrounding tissue, and you could describe the shape and size of a “rock” or “pebble,” but not a “lump.”

If your doctor told you they wanted you to feel for are “rocks” or “pebbles,” do you think you’d be more successful with checking your breasts? Would you feel more confident in your breast self-exam?

If you find a “lump” in your breast, you’ll probably keep feeling and feel unsure as to whether it’s a “lump”. You’ll be undecided as to its significance and unsure as to whether or not it constitutes a “lump.” But if you find a “rock” or a “pebble” in your breast, I guarantee it’s going to get your attention in a big way. You’ll know that it’s significant.

So stop feeling for “lumps” in your already-lumpy breasts. Start feeling for “rocks” or “pebbles” instead.

This article, written by Dr. Barbara Taylor,  was first published on, on February 7th 2017.

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