Finding a lump or an unusual change in your breast during a self-exam or routine checkup is certainly cause for concern. However, there are several breast conditions that are benign (non-cancerous), which can present themselves with similar symptoms to breast cancer. Understanding the anatomy of the breast and function of the different breast systems can help you identify any unusual changes.
Benign breast conditions
Generally, benign breast conditions fall into two main categories—benign breast tumors and fibrocystic changes.
Benign breast tumors: non-cancerous, solid lumps formed by breast cells that are growing abnormally.
- Symptoms may include:
- Solid, moveable breast lump
- May cause pain or may be painless
- Discharge from the nipple
- Changes in breast size and shape
- Treatment may include:
- Monitoring of symptoms
- Regular checkups with doctor
- Surgery in rare cases
Fibrocystic changes: changes caused by normal hormonal fluctuations in a premenopausal woman. These changes can involve the development of fibrosis and/or cysts.
- Symptoms of fibrosis:
- Firm, rubbery lumps that may fluctuate in size
- Tissue thickening
- Breast tenderness or pain
- Changes that occur in both breasts
- Changes that occur with menstrual cycle
- Symptoms of cysts:
- Smooth, moveable, oval breast lump
- Breast tenderness and pain in the area of lump
- Fluctuation in lump sized based on menstrual cycle
- Treatment for fibrocystic changes and cysts may include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication
- Reducing caffeine and salt intake
- Placing heat on painful areas
- Some cysts may need a fine needle aspiration to remove fluid
It is important to remember that if your doctor orders a breast lump biopsy, it does not mean you have breast cancer. Benign breast conditions are quite common and non-life threatening.