family of woman diagnosed with breast cancer after lump mistaken for blocked milk duct
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
March 21, 2024 ·  2 min read

Mom Diagnosed with Breast Cancer was Told the Lump was a Blocked Milk Duct

When Gemma Corby’s daughter was born, she noticed a chickpea sized lump in her breast, since being a new mom who was also breastfeeding, when she flagged her concern to the staff, she was reassured that this was merely a blocked milk duct, which is not uncommon during milk production.

After being told that her concern was simply a blocked duct, Gemma thought nothing of it. This made sense, and why should she doubt them?

However, in a few months, the lump had grown large enough to warrant a referral to her gynecologist for an ultrasound. Her results picked up an abnormality, which led to a mammogram. These results lead to a diagnosis of triple-negative breast cancer, a type that is aggressive and difficult-to-treat.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, this triple-negative form accounts for about 10 to 20 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses. It’s most likely to affect younger patients, Hispanics, African-Americans, and those with the BRCA1 genetic mutation. This cancer is also more likely to spread and recur.

Gemma has since started chemotherapy treatment but is unsure of what her future holds. She believes her diagnosis was dismissed for so long because her lump hurt, and she was repetitively told that breast cancer doesn’t hurt. She is now working to share her story so that others can be informed and to help prevent this in the future.

If you find a lump, go and get an opinion. If you’re not sure about the first opinion, go and get a second opinion. You should always go for an examination if you’re not sure. Signs may be gradual, and it may first appear as a tender lump the size of a pea or larger.

A blocked or plugged duct can occur when there is poor or insufficient drainage of the duct, this can lead to milk buildup and may also result in pressure and discomfort in the breast or lump. 

Gemma has been working alongside Breast Cancer Now to spread awareness on the possible signs of breast cancer. While many symptoms can be invisible or hard to detect without medical screening, having tender nipples, a lump, or thickening near the breast or underarm can be a sign that something is not right. We should also watch out for a change in skin texture, the enlargement of pores in the breast skin, as well as change in size, shape, dimpling, unexplained swelling or shrinkage. 

When Gemma looks back to when she first suspected something wasn’t right, she now wonders if she should have kicked up more of a fuss about her discovery, and been more forceful about it. However, nobody seemed to think there was anything wrong.

What would you have done?


  1. Mom diagnosed with breast cancer after being told lump was ‘blocked milk duct’
  2. National Breast Cancer Foundation – Symptoms and Signs
  3. Reasons for blocked ducts