Common breast conditions

Benign Lumps
These are non-cancerous lumps. Remember: 9 out of 10 lumps found are benign so the probablity of a lump being cancerous is very low. However, it needs checking out by your doctor without delay!

Thickening
The affected area of the breast feels like a band of solid tissue.

Pain
The most common breast condition many women experience once they have begun to menstruate is monthly swelling and sometimes painful tenderness preceding a period. This is not dangerous, and no treatment is necessary if the discomfort can be tolerated. Each monthly cycle is associated with hormonal changes, including increases in oestrogen and progesterone that bring more fluid into the breasts, expanding tissue, stretching nerve fibres and sometimes producing pain. Symptoms usually subside near the end of the period. Some women experience a similar condition as a side-effect of birth-control pills or hormone replacement therapy. Any ongoing pain should be checked by your doctor.

Nipple Discharge
Clear, cloudy, or bloody discharges all need to be checked.

Cancer signs
Non-moveable lump, nipple discharge, skin dimpling, a pulled-in called inverted nipple, pain, itchy rash or anything that has changed or anything unusual needs to be checked out by your GP.

Breast Cysts
A breast cyst is a fluid-filled sac. Usually it's a moveable lump, round and smooth. Some women first detect their cyst as a painful lump and they may decide to have it drained if it's painful or troublesome. Cysts are benign and common in a lot of women, especially those aged 35 to 50 and in women who are taking hormone replacement therapy. Simple cysts are not cancer and do not change into cancer. However, in rare cases, cysts may have a cancer growing within them, or close to them. These changes can be seen on an ultrasound, or found after a cyst is aspirated or drained. This is done by inserting a fine needle into the cyst to draw out the fluid, and is usually a simple and fairly painless procedure.

Fibrocystic
Fibrocystic tissue usually feels thick and solid and commonly this tissue is filled with cysts. You will need to have this area monitored with mammograms and ultrasounds. Your specialist will outline any monitoring requirements.

Mastitis
This causes red, swollen and sore breasts. The skin can get an orange-peel effect. It is common for this condition to appear while breast-feeding. You need to see your doctor as antibiotics will be needed to clear up this condition or infection.

Fibroadenoma
This is a smooth, firm breast lump made of of fibrous and glandular tissue. The term "breast mouse" is also used to refer to a fibroadenoma. These lumps are common in younger women and may become tender in the days before a period or grow bigger during pregnancy. We don't know what causes fibroadenomas, but we do know they are not cancer and don't always need removing. If they are removed however, the operation is relatively simple and a general anaesthetic is usually required.

REMEMBER: anything that has changed or anything unusual needs to be checked out by your doctor.

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