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Breast Conditions

Benign Breast Conditions 

If you find changes or something unusual in one of your breasts, it is important to see a doctor or nurse as soon as possible. But keep in mind that most breast changes are not cancer. Just because your doctor wants you to have a biopsy does not mean you have breast cancer: 4 of every 5 biopsy results are not cancer. But the only way to know for sure is to take out and test tissue from the suspicious area of the breast.

Non-cancerous breast conditions are very common, and they are never life threatening. The 2 main types are fibrocystic changes and benign (be-nine) breast tumors.

Fibrocystic changes

Fibrocystic changes are benign changes in the breast tissue that happen in about half of all women at some time in their lives. This change often happens just before a menstrual period is about to begin. Although this used to be called fibrocystic disease, it is not a disease at all. These changes can cause cysts (fluid-filled sacs) and areas of lumpiness, thickening, or tenderness; nipple discharge; or pain in the breast. If they are painful, cysts can be treated by taking out the fluid with a needle and syringe, but they may fill up again later.

A cyst cannot be diagnosed by physical exam alone, nor can it be diagnosed by a mammogram alone. To be sure that a lump (mass) is really a cyst, the doctor can do either a breast ultrasound or take the fluid out of the cyst with a thin, hollow needle.

A cyst is filled with fluid. If a mass has any solid parts, it is no longer a simple cyst and you may need to have more tests. Some masses can be watched with mammograms, but others may need a biopsy. The size, shape, and edges (margins) of the mass help the doctor figure out whether it may be cancer.

Lumps and areas of thickening caused by fibrocystic changes are almost always harmless. If fibrocystic changes are uncomfortable or painful, doctors may suggest that you avoid caffeine or reduce your salt intake. In severe cases, doctors can prescribe medicines that may help reduce or relieve your symptoms.

Benign breast tumors

Benign breast tumors are non-cancerous areas where breast cells have grown abnormally and rapidly, often forming a lump. Unlike cysts, which are filled with fluid, tumors are solid. Benign breast tumors may hurt, but they are not dangerous and do not spread outside the breast to other organs. Still, some benign breast conditions, such as papillomas and atypical hyperplasia, are important to know about because women with these conditions have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

A biopsy is the only way to find out if a lump is benign or is cancer. (See the section "Types of biopsy procedures" for more information.) In a biopsy, part of the lump or suspicious area is removed and looked at under a microscope.

If a benign tumor is large, it may change the breast's size and shape. Depending on the size and number of benign tumors, doctors may recommend that it be removed by surgery.

If the benign tumor is growing into the tissue of the milk ducts, it may cause an abnormal discharge from the nipple. In some cases, this can be treated by surgery to remove the tumor.

Other benign breast conditions


Mastitis is a breast infection that most often occurs in women who are breast-feeding. The breast may become red, warm, or painful. Mastitis is treated with antibiotics. But if the mastitis does not get better when you take antibiotics, it is important that you let the doctor know right away. Some breast cancers can look a lot like infections.

Fat necrosis

Fat necrosis sometimes happens when an injury to the breast heals and leaves scar tissue that can feel like a lump. A biopsy can tell if it is cancer or not. Sometimes when the breast is injured, an oil cyst (fluid-filled area) forms instead of scar tissue during healing. Oil cysts can be diagnosed and treated by taking out (aspirating) the fluid.

Duct ectasia

Duct ectasia is common and most often affects women in their 40s and 50s. Its symptoms are usually a green, black, thick, or sticky discharge from the nipple, and tenderness or redness of the nipple and area around the nipple. Duct ectasia can also cause a hard lump, which is usually biopsied to be sure it is not cancer. Redness that does not improve may need to be biopsied to be sure it is not cancer.

Source: /ForWomenFacingaBreastBiopsy/breast-biopsy-benign-breast-conditions

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ACR AwardLahey Outpatient Center, Danvers was designated a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology.