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Benign Breast Conditions


What are some benign (non-cancerous) breast conditions?

Cysts – These are fluid or tissue filled sacs occurring most commonly in women approaching menopause. These are often observed by doctors over time or drained using fine needle aspiration. There are several types of cysts as described below:

  • Fibroadenomas – These are smooth, round and hard lumps that can usually move easily around the breast. These lumps can be anywhere from 5mm to 5cm and may become larger during pregnancy or nursing. Fibroadenomas will usually disappear or get smaller over time and therefore are normally left alone, especially in younger women, in which they are most common. However, the procedure for removal is simple, and some women may choose to have the lumps removed.

  • Fat Necrosis – This is an often painless swelling of fatty breast tissue, often occurring after surgery or injury to the breast. This tumor can look like cancer and is therefore sometimes removed by surgical biopsy.

  • Sclerosing Adenosis – Is an enlargement of breast lobules which is sometimes painful and can contain calcifications.

  • Intraductal Papilloma – This is a wart-like growth located inside the nipple which can cause discharge. It is usually treated by surgery.

What causes breast pain?

Breast pain is not usually associated with cancer, but can be. If you notice anything unusual in your breast, consult a doctor. Breast pain is most commonly associated with the menstrual cycle and therefore is referred to as cyclical pain. It is thought to be related to hormone activity in combination with a reaction from the breast tissue. Studies show that most women are more concerned about the possibility of cancer than the pain itself. There are treatments available to help with this pain. Some physicians may recommend limiting consumption of caffeine or reducing salt intake. If necessary, doctors can offer medicinal interventions. Non-cyclical breast pain is much less common and can be caused by a trauma such as an injury or a breast biopsy. In both cases, if you are experiencing breast pain it is important to take the time to find a breast specialist to examine your breasts and determine what steps should be taken, if any.

What questions should I ask my doctor about breast irregularities?

What type of lump do I have?
Will I need to have a fine needle aspiration?
Will I need to have a biopsy?
What are the risks and benefits of removing the lump?
What are the risks and benefits of "watching and waiting"?
Does my condition increase my risk for breast cancer?
What are my treatment options?
Would changing my diet help my condition?

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