What is a benign breast condition?
If you feel a lump in your breast, it may be the first thing that crosses your mind that you have breast cancer. Fortunately, most breast lumps are benign, which means that they are not cancerous. While these breast changes are not cancerous or life-threatening, they may increase the risk of developing breast cancer at later stages.
Benign breast lumps are common in women. About half of all women will have fibrocystic changes that cause non-cancerous breast tumors at some point in their lives. Fluctuating hormone levels often cause these changes in breast tissue.
Who might get benign breast disease?
Your risk of developing benign breast disease increases if you:
- Have a family history of benign breast conditions
- Use hormone replacement therapy.
- You have a hormonal imbalance.
What are the most common benign breast conditions?
There are many benign breast conditions. Most of the following types do not increase the risk of cancer and do not require treatment:
About a quarter of breast lumps are fluid-filled cysts. Breast cysts can be tender and lumpy, but they do not make you more likely to develop cancer. The cysts often go away without treatment.
The most common non-cancerous solid breast tumors
These are the most common non-cancerous solid breast tumors found in women between the ages of 15-35 years. Fibroadenomas do not increase the risk of cancer and will often go away on their own.
Fibrocystic breast changes
Fluctuating hormone levels can make the breasts feel lumpy, dense, and tender, especially right before menstruation. Women between the ages of 30 and 50 are more likely to experience fibrocystic changes in the breast that go away without treatment.
A condition called usual hyperplasia
This condition is caused by an overgrowth of cells that line the mammary ducts or glands. A condition called usual hyperplasia does not increase the risk of cancer and does not require treatment. If you have atypical hyperplasia, your doctor may recommend removing the affected breast tissue surgically removed because this condition may make you more likely to develop breast cancer.
These are tiny growths that form inside the mammary duct near the nipple. Intra-ductal papilloma may cause secretions from the nipple. The condition most commonly affects women between the ages of 30 and 50. Your risk of developing cancer increases if you have five or more papillomas at one time. Surgery can remove these growths and reduce the risk of cancer.
Mammary duct ectasia
Menopausal and postmenopausal women are more prone to mammary duct dilation. You may experience an inverted nipple or nipple discharge when the swollen and inflamed milk ducts are blocked. This condition does not increase the risk of cancer. You may need antibiotics if a bacterial infection causes inflammation and blockage. Otherwise, you will not need treatment.
Traumatic fat necrosis
These breast lumps form when scar tissue replaces breast tissue that has been damaged by injury, surgery, or radiation therapy. These lumps do not increase the risk of cancer and do not need treatment.
How to diagnose benign breast conditions?
You should visit a doctor if you feel a lump or notice changes in your breast. Sometimes your mammogram or your healthcare provider detects a change first. Your doctor may request one or more of these tests:
- Imaging tests, including a mammogram, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Lab test for nipple drainage to check for cancer cells.
- Image-guided core needle biopsy, fine-needle aspiration biopsy, or excision biopsy to test for cancer cells.
How to manage or treat benign breast conditions?
Most types of benign breast disease do not require treatment. Your doctor may recommend treatment if you have atypical enlargement or a different type of benign breast disease that increases your risk of developing breast cancer in the future. If you feel pain or discomfort or have an increased risk of cancer, these treatments can help:
- Fine-needle aspiration to drain the fluid-filled cysts.
- Surgery to remove the lumps (lumpectomy).
- Oral antibiotics for infections such as mastitis.