The answer is sometimes. Most women who get screening mammograms often have their cancers found before they can be felt on self-breast exam. Breast masses (lumps) vary in size. The smallest mass that can be felt by hand is 1.0 cm (½ inch) which is about the size of a lima bean. But this depends on where it develops in the breast, the size of the breast and how deep the mass is in the breast.
In general, cancerous breast lumps tend to be more irregular in shape. They may feel firm or fixed to the tissue in the breast. Although a small percentage of women have painful lumps that turn out to be cancerous, most of the time there is no pain associated with the mass. It is particularly important for a woman to be familiar with her individual breast tissue. Know what is normal for you by practicing breast self-awareness. Examine your breast either in the shower standing up or laying down in the bed with one arm raised over your head. This allows the breast tissue to spread out when you are examining. Also, visually inspect the breasts by looking at yourself in the mirror.
Note any new changes such as skin thickening, scaliness of the nipple, nipple discharge, new lumps, or retraction of the nipple or skin. When there are new changes to the breast, it is time to make an appointment with your health care provider. Of course, we want to discover lumps in the breasts before they are large enough to be felt. Speak with her provider on the appropriate time to start screening mammography. Annual mammograms, clinical breast exams, and practicing breast regular breast self-exams are all important in the early detection of breast cancer.