By Dr. Kathleen Ruddy
A breast lump is typically found while doing a self exam, during a mammogram, or during an exam at your doctor’s office. There are two types of tumors: malignant and benign. Benign tumors are not cancerous. In addition to finding a benign lump in your breast, there are other non-cancerous breast conditions that may occur. Finding out you have a breast issue or lump is not cause for serious alarm, but it should still be checked out by a doctor. Here are some common benign breast conditions that occur in women of various ages.
Breast Tissue Changes
As women get older, their breast tissue can change. It can become more dense and even affect the shape of the breast. While this type of breast condition can be alarming and uncomfortable, it does not mean that you have a type of breast cancer. It should be looked at by your doctor during a breast exam or even a mammogram. This will help to determine whether or not further testing will need to be done.
There are various types of benign nipple conditions that can occur in women as well. One condition is called mastitis, which is an infection of the breast tissue. This will cause the nipple to leak fluid and can become very painful. This condition is very common among women who are breast feeding and can be treated with an oral antibiotic. Another common condition that can affect the nipple is called intraductal papillomas. These are small wart-like growths that occur on the lining of the mammary glands. They can cause small lumps around the nipple area or some fluid leakage from the nipple. This condition is typically not painful and can be left alone. If it becomes painful or uncomfortable, you should schedule a breast exam with your doctor.
Benign breast conditions occur most often in women; however, they have also been known to affect men over the age of 40.
Breast cysts are the most common type of benign lump women find in their breasts. Breast cysts are typically located near the surface of the breast; however, they may be deeper inside, close to your chest wall. If the cyst is closer to the surface, it can be easy to find, but if it is deeper inside, it can be more difficult to distinguish it from other kinds of normally occurring breast lumps. Another type of benign lump in the breast is called a fibroadenoma. This is a benign group of cells that are located near the surface of the breast and should be very easy to feel. Both of these types of benign lumps are easily treated with a visit to your doctor.
Hyperplasia describes an overgrowth of cells in the breast tissue. It most often occurs on the inside of the ducts in the breast. There are two main types of hyperplasia: usual and atypical. Both types may increase the risk of breast cancer, but atypical hyperplasia puts you at a higher risk than usual hyperplasia.
Radial scars often look like breast cancer on a mammogram. While this may seem like cause for alarm, they are not cancerous. They are found most often during a biopsy on a breast tumor that is being removed for other reasons. Once the radial scars are removed, there is no need for further treatment and they do not put you at higher risk for breast cancer.
Some benign lumps caused by breast conditions can cause discomfort or pain and may need treatment. Other benign lumps in breasts need no medical treatment at all. Many breast conditions are known to show the same symptoms of cancer and will require tests and sometimes a biopsy for a clear diagnosis. Even though the thought of breast cancer is very scary, most biopsies find a benign breast condition, not cancer.