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Is Every Breast Lump Cancerous?

Dr. Sadaf Ishaque

3 min read

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If you have discovered a breast lump, there is no need to assume right away that its cancerous. In fact, there are a plethora of benign breast conditions that cause breast lumps and are non-cancerous. There are many women out there who become depressed and morbid once they discover a breast lump, and many women do not get them evaluated out of fear.
Read on to know what these benign conditions are, and how easily they are treatable.

Fibroadenomas: are one of the commonest breast lumps. These non-cancerous solid breast lumps are usually found between the ages of 15 and 35 years. These masses are made of fibro-glandular breast tissue and the stroma.

These can be solitary or more than one. Usually these fibroadenomas are quite small, and cannot be felt. However, it’s quite common for them to grow to a size of 2-3 cm, presumable under the influence of estrogen. Management options for fibroadenomas include biopsy to rule-out cancer, surgical-excision or just follow-up with ultrasounds and clinical exams.

Breast cysts: cysts are fluid filled sacs that can be tender and lumpy, but are non-cancerous. They are common between the ages of 35 and 50, especially near menopause. A common cause of breast cyst is blocked breast glands, which is why they can appear to enlarge over-night. In many women, the breast cysts appear near their period due to changes in hormones. More often than not, they go away on their own without treatment.

Mammary duct ectasia: is more common in women in the menopausal and postmenopausal period. It results in an inverted nipple with inflamed and swollen mild ducts. This condition is also known as periductal mastitis and is completely benign. In case the blockage of ducts results in a super added bacterial infection, antibiotics are needed; otherwise, this condition doesn’t warrant treatment.

Sclerosing adenosis: is excessive growth of breast tissue. This is a painful condition that involves formation of tiny lumps in breast tissue. On mammography, they may appear as small calcifications. Your doctor may recommend a biopsy to rule out a more serious cause.

Intraductal papilloma: are small warty growths inside the breast tissue. They are present near the nipple and can cause discharge. These can be surgically removed, as they carry some malignant potential if their number exceeds more than five at a time.

Fat necrosis: involves the formation of small, round, firm lumps due to damage and disintegration of fatty breast tissue. It is common in women who are heavily endowed or those who receive a blow to the breast. Other causes of fat necrosis include radiation from a previous cancerous lump or lumpectomy.

What are the signs and symptoms of benign breast conditions?

Benign breast conditions produce a similar symptomatology to that of cancerous lesions. This is why all breast lumps should be assessed timely through investigations to rule out the possibility of cancer. The symptoms include: tenderness in the breast that may or may not increase around the time of menstruation. Apart from a breast lump, there can be irritation on the skin, or redness and scaling. The nipple can be involved even in benign breast conditions, with symptoms like nipple retraction, and nipple pain. Some lesion also produce discharge from the breast that is not milk—the color of the discharge can be dark brown, green, yellow or black.

How to diagnose benign breast lumps?

The goal of diagnosis in benign breast conditions is to ensure that the lesion is benign indeed and to know if there is any chance of the lesion turning malignant. The tests and investigative procedure is similar in both benign and malignant breast lesions.

History and physical exam helps the doctor get an idea of the extent of symptoms, pain, general breast health as well as the risk factors for malignant disease. After a thorough history, the doctor will then proceed with the physical exam, assessing the size of breast lump, its mobility, adhesion to the underlying tissue as well as involvement of the nearby lymph nodes.

Imaging techniques used are most commonly mammography, and ultrasound. An ultrasound helps to differentiate a cyst from a solid tissue. Further investigations can include an MRI scan if the other tests prove inconclusive.

Fluid analysis of the nipple discharge helps determine what kind of discharge it is—purulent, or not, and if it carries some abnormal cells or blood.

Biopsy is done to ensure there is no malignant potential in the cells of the breast lump. A core needle biopsy is typically done, to remove slivers of tissue to study their cells under microscope. For larger or deeper lumps, an excisional biopsy is done. A biopsy can conclusively determine if a lesion is benign or cancerous. However, your healthcare provider may still call you for follow-up after six-months or so to make sure there is no change in the lesion.

If you have discovered a lump in your breast, or you would like to know more about your risk of getting breast cancer, then you can consult a top breast surgeon to aid you. Book an appointment with top breast surgeon in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT professional for your concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Sadaf Ishaque
Dr. Sadaf Ishaque - Author DR.SADAF ISHAQUE is a fellowship trained Breast & General surgeon who joined shalamar medical and dental college in 2015.Dr.Sadaf Ishaque practices at chugtai centre ,horizon hospital and farooq hospitals .she is heading onestop breast clinic at chugtai jail road centre . She specializes in all aspects of breast health and the surgical management of complex breast diseases. She sees women with newly diagnosed or a previous history of breast cancer, benign breast masses and cysts, abnormal imaging, fibrocystic breast disease, those with genetic susceptibility or at high risk for breast cancer, and many others. Her extensive knowledge of novel and up-to-date treatment modalities for breast cancer is an asset to her practice and her patients. In addition, her technical skills, encompassing nipple-sparing mastectomy, oncoplastic surgery, sentinel lymph node biopsy, and other minimally invasive techniques leads to outstanding clinical and aesthetic outcomes for patients.

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