Non-cancerous Breast Conditions

There are many breast conditions that are not cancer, pre-cancer and are benign. Many of the non-cancerous breast conditions are common and many women live with them without ever knowing they even have them. Benign breast conditions are not life-threatening, but some conditions can be linked as being a precursor for breast cancer in the future. Therefore, it is always best to check in with your doctor for regular breast health exams and perform self-checks every month.

Here are many different types of non-cancerous breast conditions with information about each.

Fibrosis and Simple Cysts: Most breast lumps found turn out to be one of these two things. These tumors, most often caused by fibrocystic changes in the body at any time during a woman’s life, are usually non-cancerous. “Fibrosis” means large amounts of fibrous tissue, which can feel hard, rubbery, or firm. Cysts are more like moveable, round lumps that are sometimes tender to the touch. Cysts can change in size depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle. Treatment for these conditions is minimal unless a cyst is causing serious pain or discomfort. In that case, the cysts can be drained.

Ductal or Lobular Hyperplasia: Hyperplasia is also known as proliferative breast disease. Depending on the make-up of the cells taken from a sample will determine which type of hyperplasia you might have. Diagnosis of this condition is done most often by mammogram as the cells are too small to detect during a manual exam. For those diagnosed with Moderate or Atypical hyperplasia, your risk of developing breast cancer later in life does increase up to five percent (ACS). Usually, there is no treatment needed for hyperplasia, unless you have Moderate or Atypical (ADH or ALH) and the cells show further signs of uncontrolled growth. In this case, more breast tissue might be excised from the area to remove the risk.

Lobular Carcinoma in SITU: In this breast conditions, cells that resemble cancer cells are found in the milk-producing glands. While LCIS is not breast cancer, it does increase your risk of breast cancer in the future by seven to twelve percent, so routine breast medical care will be a must. This is diagnosed by a biopsy after a mammogram detected cell issue. Treatment for this is draining the area, or in more severe cases, excising the entire area and ‘infected’ tissue.

Adenosis: This benign breast condition causes enlargement in the milk-producing glands and there are usually more glands than normal. Adenosis is common for women who have cysts or fibrosis in their breasts. In certain cases, adenosis can be felt by a manual exam if the nodules have grown and enlarged close together. Calcifications can be seen on a mammogram, and a biopsy will be done thereafter if needed. Adenosis does not need treatment but will need to be monitored closely.

Fibroadenomas: These non-cancerous breast tumors are common and made up of granular and stromal tissues. These are most often diagnosed in younger women in their 20s and 30s but can occur at any age. These are described as feeling like a marble in the breast. These can range in size from a small pea to a large inch-size ball and can be moved around inside the breast. Usually, no pain is felt from this condition. They are diagnosed by mammogram and biopsy, and only slightly raise the chance of future breast cancer by one-and-a-half percent. For women who have growing fibroadenomas, most doctors recommend removing them. In the case that yours is not growing, there are cases where they have remained the same causing no issues for the woman, so it could be beneficial to leave it be. Your doctor can help you determine which method is best for you.

Phyllodes Tumors: These are rare breast tumors that grow in the connective or stromal tissue of the breast. Most of these tumors are benign, but one in four turns out to be malignant. These are most often diagnosed by external exam, as lumps grow quickly and expand the skin. Having a benign phyllodes tumor does not increase your breast cancer risk, but you will be monitored more closely. These tumors do have a rate of recurrence, therefore any woman with this condition is always monitored by their care team. The best treatment for this condition is a lumpectomy, which is the removal of the tumor and some surrounding tissue until clear margins are found. These tumors can spread, and if malignant, do pose a risk to spread to other organs.

Intraductal Papilloma: These benign wart-like tumors grow in the milk ducts of the breast. They are made of gland tissue, fibrous tissue, and blood vessels. Solitary papillomas grow in the milk duct farther from the nipple, while multiple papillomas can be found elsewhere in the breast. If the papilloma is large enough, it can be felt with palpitation. If not, a mammogram, biopsy, or x-ray can help detect where the cells are growing. The usual treatment is removal via surgery for this condition. If you have multiple papillomas, your risk for breast cancer in the future increases slightly.

Granular Cell Tumor: These tumors grow in the beginning stages of nerve cells and can be found anywhere in the body. If found in the breast, it is usually a hard, moveable lump, most often in the upper section of the breasts. A mammogram or ultrasound can diagnose these tumors and are usually removed with clean margins as treatment. This type of tumor does not increase the risk of breast cancer in the future.

Fat Necrosis and Oil Cysts: Fat necrosis happens when the fat tissue in the breast is damaged, usually due to an injury. This can also happen after breast surgery or radiation and is more common in women with large breasts. While the body works to repair the damaged fat cells, some cells do not reform correctly and release their contents, which are similar to an oily liquid, into the body. This causes oil cysts. This is easily diagnosed by mammogram or ultrasound, and aspiration of any fluid inside. In most cases, fat necrosis goes away on its own. However, if either of the lumps or cysts grow, removal might be in order. Speak with your doctor if you are experiencing growth of an oil cyst.

Mastitis: This is caused by inflammation and swelling in the breast, usually from an infection. It most commonly affects women who are breastfeeding, but any woman can be stricken with this at any time. Clogged ducts, milk not fully draining and broken skin tears are just some of the reasons this can happen. Diagnosis is made by symptoms and visual exam. Treatment is typically antibiotics and draining of any cysts or pockets of infection that have formed. Mastitis does not raise your risk of future breast cancer.

Duct Ectasia: Or mammary duct ectasia happens when the milk ducts in the breasts widen, and their walls thicken. This can cause the ducts to become blocked and affects the most women that are heading into menopause. This condition causes no symptoms and is only found during testing or biopsies for other breast conditions. This can also cause the breast to leak a dark green or black looking nipple discharge, which is often thicker. This can cause lumps, and a biopsy or mammogram can confirm or deny. Most often, no treatment is necessary. If uncomfortable, try a warm compress to the area. In severe cases, an antibiotic may be prescribed in case of infection.

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