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Benign Breast Conditions Explained

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 16 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
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Benign breast conditions are those that are non-cancerous. It is estimated that some type of condition is present in 90% of women and that a great number of changes in the breast are noticed by women themselves during consistent breast self exams.

Breast Pain

Breast pain is formally known as mastalgia and there are two main types: cyclical and non-cyclical. Cyclical breast pain is related to the menstrual cycle and often results in breasts feeling sore, tender or full. This pain may be intensified by heavy lifting, smoking an/or eating a poor diet. Non-cyclical breast pain is not related to the menstrual cycle. This type of pain is often described as shooting, stabbing, darting or burning and may not have a discernable pattern. Non-cyclical breast pain usually stems from the breast tissues themselves, from the pectoral muscles under the breast or even from the ribs. Wearing a supportive bra or sports bra sometimes helps alleviate this type of pain.

Fat Necrosis

Fat necrosis occurs when the fatty tissues of the breast swell or otherwise become tender. Sometimes this happens spontaneously and sometimes it is the result of an injury to the breast. When the injury heals, scar tissue may be left. Generally the signs of fat necrosis subside within 30 days, though a biopsy can help identify the condition and rule out breast cancer.

Fibroadenomas

Fibroadenomas are a type of benign breast tumour that is common in women between the ages of 20 and 30. These tumours may be composed of either glandular or connective breast tissue and are generally too small to be felt by hand though sometimes they may grow large enough to do so. These tumours can be diagnosed by aspiration or biopsy and may need to be surgically removed if they do not stop growing. However if they reduce in size on their own then no treatment may be needed.

Fibrocystic Breast Condition

Fibrocystic breast condition includes a number of breast changes such as the formation of cysts, the formation of fibrosis (scar type tissue), lumps, tenderness and pain in the breasts. These changes are thought to be the most common changes in the breasts of women between the ages of 30 and 50 and they may well be noticed in relation to the menstrual cycle. Usually fibrocystic breast condition is diagnosed following a clinical breast exam, mammogram and/or biopsy and treatment may include wearing more supportive bras, taking oral contraceptives, taking a selection of advised vitamins, reducing salt intake, removing breast lumps and more.

Mastitis

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast and occurs most often in women who are breastfeeding. This is because bacteria can enter the nipple and grow within the breast duct. Usually breasts affected by mastitis swell, look red and feel hot. When mastitis is diagnosed it is usually treated with antibiotics, though if pus is present then it may need to be drained.

Nipple Discharge

Nipple discharge is the third most common breast condition following breast pain and lumps in the breast. There are many possible causes of breast discharge. Milky discharge is usually related to lactation (milk production) while bloody or watery discharge may be related to conditions such as benign tumours in the milk ducts or an infection. Other discharges may be related to cysts in the breast or changes in the milk duct. In a very small amount of cases discharge can be due to a form of nipple cancer known as Paget's Disease. Some women may also find that discharge is related to hormonal changes, their pituitary gland or drugs that they are taking such as sedatives or even birth control pills.

Simple Cysts

Cysts are fluid-filled sacs which, in the breast, are usually small and feel smooth though sometimes they may grow large enough to be seen within the breast. Larger cysts may be painful. Cysts are most often seen in women between the age of 30 and 60 and are particularly common in women who are just a few years away from menopause.

At some time in their life most women will experience a type of benign breast condition. However, if changes are noticed in the breasts then a doctor should be notified and further investigations carried out as needed.

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