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What are benign breast diseases?

Benign breast diseases (or benign breast conditions) are noncancerous disorders of the breast, which can occur in both women and men.

What are the causes of benign breast lumps?

Benign breast lumps can be caused by changes to the breast such as an infection, injury, and medications such as birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Products containing soy and caffeine can also cause benign breast lumps. Throughout a woman’s life, the breast tissue continually changes and is sensitive to oestrogen and progesterone hormone levels, which fluctuate during menstruation.

What are the different types of benign breast conditions?

Types of non-cancerous breast conditions include:

  • Fibrocystic changes – due to changes in hormone balances during normal, monthly menstrual cycles. The cysts are benign, tiny, fluid-filled sacs. The tenderness and lump size commonly increases weeks before the menstrual period and eases back to normal the week after. Fibrocystic changes are the most common cause of benign breast lumps in women aged 35-50 thanks to the hormones in the breast tissue.
  • Simple cysts – are fluid-filled sacs that can be single or multiple and vary in size. Tenderness and lump size change with the menstrual cycle and even by caffeine.
  • Fibroadenomas – the most common benign solid tumours which are round, rubbery, slippery lumps that can move freely between the breasts. They are usually painless.
  • Intraductal papillomas – small wart-like growths in the lining of the mammary duct by the nipple, which can produce bleeding or discharge.
  • Traumatic fat necrosis – if there has been a sudden trauma, injury or surgery to the breast then lumps of fat may form. The lumps are round, firm, hard and painless.
  • Lobular Carcinoma in Situ
  • Adenosis
  • Phyllodes tumours
  • Granular cell tumours
  • Mastitis
  • Duct Ectasia
  • Oil cysts
  • Ductal or lobular hyperplasic
  •  

How often should I self-examine my breasts?

It is recommended to self-examine the breast monthly in order to become aware of the regular monthly changes. It should be performed at the same time of day and 3-5 days after the menstrual cycle ends.

 

How are benign breast conditions treated?

Fibrocystic changes do not need treatment. Fine needle aspiration (FNA) can be used to treat simple cysts, with which the fluid is drawn to make the cyst collapse. In some cases, surgery may be required to remove larger, painful lumps.

 

How can I keep good breast health?

The following is advised to monitor the breasts:

  • Monthly self-examinations of the breasts
  • Mammograms
  • Tracking your family history
  • Meeting a specialist for a risk assessment to determine if you are at high risk of developing breast cancer.