Many breast irregularities appear similar to breast cancer. Yet, nearly 90 percent of the lumps, inflammations, nipple discharges and suspicious breast changes are benign, or non-cancerous, tumors or cysts.
Tell your physician about any irregularity you notice so you can receive proper diagnosis and treatment. Some are listed below, please see your doctor if you have any of these conditions. Do not use these descriptions to diagnose yourself.
- Fibroadenomas – these round, rubbery, freely movable, generally painless lumps usually occur in women age 15 to 30. They occur twice as often in African American women. Since the risk of breast cancer increases with age, such breast masses should be removed to be sure they are benign.
- Fibrocystic or lumpy breast - is caused by monthly hormone changes in the body, most often in women age 35 to 50. As the hormone levels shift each month, tiny cysts fill with fluid, causing breast tenderness and lumpiness. This is most noticeable right before menstruation. If the lumpiness occurs in one specific part of the breast, producing an area of thickness, a surgical biopsy or needle aspiration may be needed to determine the exact nature of the thickness.
- Ductal papillomas - are small, benign, wart-like growths that appear in the lining of a duct near the nipple. The condition occurs most frequently in women age 45 to 50. These generally cannot be felt, but produce a watery or bloody discharge from the nipple. Because a similar nipple discharge may be an early warning sign for breast cancer, this should be investigated further.
- Mammary duct ectasia - is a benign condition usually occurring in women who are near or past menopause. The ducts become clogged and distended, which may produce a thick, gray-to-green discharge. No treatment is required.
- Fat necrosis - is a benign disease occurring in women over 50 and in women with very large breasts. The condition can result from a bruise or blow to the breast. The trauma causes the cells in part of the breast to die and harden into a small, flat lump that is painless, round and firm. The skin may appear bruised or red and should be examined by a physician.