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Benign Breast Disorders

Breast lesions or changes are a cause for great concern. They can be an incidental finding on breast imaging or detected on self-breast exam. The doctor can even find the abnormalities when she performs a routine clinical examination. In either case, the first question that pops into a woman’s head is: “Is this breast cancer?” The answer is usually no however, that woman will generally go through weeks of tests and waiting before receiving an answer.

The good news is that >90% of lesions found on clinical exam in women age 20-50 are benign or noncancerous. There are however certain benign lesions that indicate an increased risk of developing cancer in the future. This article will describe the non-cancerous problems that are not associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Breast lesions are classified based on their potential for changing and developing into breast cancer. The category that is not associated with an increased risk of breast cancer development is described as nonproliferative breast disorders. Older terms used to describe these problems are fibrocystic changes, fibrocystic disease or mammary dysplasia. Women with these problems are at no higher or lower risk of developing breast cancer than women without these problems.

The different categories are described below. Breast cysts are so commonly known that women who develop this problem understand that it isn’t a cause for concern.

Breast Cysts

Breast cysts are fluid filled structures that are round or ovoid in shape. They occur in the terminal breast ducts. They can be solitary or multiple and their size may fluctuate. On imaging, the cyst maybe described as simple, complicated or complex. The complex types may be associated with an increased future risk of cancer.
The cyst are affected by hormonal fluctuation therefore, can be found during breast development at puberty, breast involution in perimenopausal women and with menstrual cycle changes.
It may present with either sudden breast pain associated with a lump or as an incidental finding on mammogram. Sometimes the breast lump is small and not painful but may persist or fluctuate in size throughout the cycle.

Other benign problems include:

Papillary Apocrine Changes
Growth of the ductal epithelial cells with breast gland features

Benign Calcifications
Calcifications can be found on mammogram. The characteristics may indicate whether it is concerning for cancer or not. The benign calcifications can occur in the breast ducts, lobules, stroma or even the blood vessels.

Mild Hyperplasia
This is an increase number of epithelial cells in a duct within a defined range.

The above conditions are annoying problems but do not indicate any potential for breast cancer. The discovery of a breast lump should prompt you to seek a medical evaluation since many things could cause it. In addition, early detection of breast cancer is always the goal because early treatment can mean a cure.

I hope this article has provided you with information that will help you make wise choices, so you may:

Live healthy, live well and live long!
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Content copyright © 2015 by Dr. Denise Howard. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Dr. Denise Howard. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Dr. Denise Howard for details.


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