Benign breast disorders (non-cancerous) are quite common, and most women have them. In fact, most breast changes are benign, and these conditions are not life-threatening. However, a few are associated with an increased risk of developing cancer later. More than 50% of women will experience fibrocystic changes that cause noncancerous breast lumps at some point of time. Hormone imbalance often causes changes in breast tissue. Benign breast disease affects men too, where men can develop enlarged, swollen breasts with lumps, and the condition is known as gynecomastia.
Breast signs such as lumps, swelling, and nipple discharge are perhaps symptoms of breast cancer, but most often these are symptoms of breast conditions that are benign - not cancer. Though these changes are not cancerous, they may increase your risk of developing later. So, it is important to pay attention to how your breasts look normal and feel and let your doctor know about any sudden changes.
What Are The Causes Of Benign Breast Conditions?
Common causes of noncancerous breast lumps include:
- Changes in breast tissue
- Breast infection
- Scar tissue due to a breast injury
- Hormonal changes -menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause
- Certain medications like hormonal contraceptives (birth control pills) and hormone replacement therapy
- Excess intake of caffeinated beverages
Symptoms Of Benign Breast Disease
You may observe breast changes or a lump while doing a breast-self exam. At times a mammogram detects these changes. Besides a breast lump, other signs include:
Change in breast size or shape
Inverted or scaly nipple
Puckered or scaly breasts
Types Of Benign Breast Disease
There are several types of benign breast condition and most of them don’t elevate your cancer risk and doesn’t require any specific treatment.
Fibrosis And Simple Cysts:
Lumps, swelling, tenderness, or pains are common signs and symptoms of fibrosis and cysts. Most breast lumps are fluid-filled cysts. But these changes don’t make you prone to cancer. Cysts often settle without treatment.
Fibroadenoma is a solid breast lump that feels firm, smooth, and rubbery, and the lump moves easily within the breast tissue. It develops mostly in young women between ages 15 and 35. They don’t increase your risk of breast cancer and often settle on their own.
Hyperplasia is a condition that develops from an overgrowth of cells lining mammary glands. This condition doesn’t increase your cancer risk and doesn’t require treatment. If a person has atypical hyperplasia, then the healthcare provider may suggest surgically removing affected breast tissue, as it may make you prone to breast cancer.
Intraductal papilloma is a small, warts-like development inside the mammary duct near the nipple and it may cause nipple discharge. This condition mostly affects women between ages 30 to 50. But your risk of developing cancer increases if you have 5 or more papilloma’ at a time. Surgery is the best treatment option to remove these growths and can lower your cancer risk.
Mammary Duct Ectasia:
Generally, menopausal, and postmenopausal women are prone to develop mammary duct ectasia. This condition is categorized by an inverted nipple or nipple discharge when swollen, and inflammation of milk ducts that are blocked. It is also known as periductal mastitis, and it doesn’t increase cancer risk. Your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics if a bacterial infection is causing inflammation and blockage. Else, you may not require any treatment.
Traumatic Fat Necrosis:
Traumatic fat necrosis develops when fatty tissue in your breast is damaged by an injury, surgery, or radiation therapy. A lump can develop due to scar tissue or when injured fat cells change into a sac of fluid called an oil cyst. This condition doesn’t increase your cancer risk and may not need treatment.
If you notice a lump or breast changes consult your healthcare provider immediately. Sometimes a mammogram scan can determine any breast change initially. Also, your healthcare provider may suggest getting one or more of these tests:
- Imaging scans like mammograms, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Sample of nipple discharge to check for any cancer cells
- Core needle breast biopsy (guided by image), fine needle aspiration biopsy to test cells for cancer
Well, most types of benign breast disease don’t need any treatment. Your healthcare provider may suggest treatment if you have atypical hyperplasia or a different kind of benign breast condition that elevates your risk of breast cancer later. If you feel pain or discomfort or have a higher risk of cancer, the following treatments may help:
- Fine needle aspiration to drain fluid-filled cysts
- Lumpectomy (surgery to remove lumps
- Oral antibiotics to treat infections like mastitis