If you’ve noticed bumps or lumps around your nipple or areola, there’s no need to panic. Any lumps or changes in your breast can be scary as it can bring up the specter of cancer.
However, sometimes, it can be totally normal to get small bumps in this area. The small circular area, in particular the ring of pigmented skin surrounding a nipple is called areola. And the bumps on your areola are called Montgomery glands which secrete oil with antibacterial properties. This oil helps to lubricate your areolas and nipples during pregnancy and lactation. In fact, it’s these secretions that help direct babies to the breasts for feeding.
But, how do you know when these little bumps are not normal?
The number of bumps around the nipples varies from woman to woman. Furthermore, there are a lot of culprits for lumps under your areola, and most of them are not cancer.
The most common cause of these bumps is fibrocystic breasts, which is a normal change breasts go through, just before you get your period. The breast tissue sually changes to feel more ropey and lumpy. However, this often goes away on its own.
During pregnancy and breastfeeding, these bumps also tend to become more prominent. The bumps, as well as your nipples, become a much more intense shade while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and should make you worry.
Milk ducts (which you have even if you’re not lactating) can clog causing lumps. Lumps can also be cause by an infection or an intraductal papilloma, which is a fancy name for a non-cancerous tumor in your milk ducts.
You don’t have to worry about bumps around your nipples unless they become painful or inflamed or change in size. Pain and inflammation are signs of infection or clogged ducts which your your doctor would have to check and drain or prescribe antibiotics.
Just remember, a lump anywhere in your breast, including under your nipple or areola, has to be checked to see if it’s cancerous. It’s indicative of cancer if it’s clearly defined, firm, and doesn’t move. Also, look out for other symptoms of breast cancer such as discharge from your nipple, dimpling of the skin on your breasts and retraction of the nipple.