What is a benign breast condition?
A benign breast condition is one that is not cancer. These conditions often go away on their own or are easily treated. Because a few benign breast conditions can increase your risk of getting cancer in the future, you may need to have follow-up tests or exams. What are the different types of benign breast conditions? Benign breast conditions include pain, lumps or masses, infections, nipple discharge, and skin changes.
What causes benign breast pain?
There are two types of breast pain: cyclic and noncyclic.
- Cyclic breast pain occurs in response to changes in hormone levels. Your breasts may feel swollen, more sensitive, or painful before your menstrual period.
- Noncyclic breast pain is not related to the menstrual cycle. It usually occurs in one breast in one specific area. Many things can cause this type of pain, including injury, infection, medications, and large breast size. In rare cases, noncyclic breast pain can be caused by breast cancer.
How is benign breast pain treated?
For cyclic breast pain, wearing a well-fitted bra and taking pain-relieving medications can help. If you are on combined hormonal birth control, using your method continuously may improve symptoms.
Let us know, if you have noncyclic breast pain.
What are benign breast lumps or masses?
There are different types of benign breast lumps. In general, benign breast masses are divided into three types:
- Nonproliferative—This type of mass has normal cells. A common example is a cyst. Cysts usually are small and go away by themselves or can be drained with a needle. Another example is a simple fibroadenoma. Simple fibroadenomas usually shrink or go away on their own. They may need to be surgically removed if they are large or keep growing.
- Proliferative without atypia—In this type of breast mass, the cells are increasing in number but are otherwise normal. Having this type of lump slightly increases the risk of future breast cancer over the long term. They usually are surgically removed, but sometimes they can just be watched to make sure they are not growing.
- Atypical hyperplasia of the breast—Hyperplasia is a condition in which cells are increasing in number. Atypia means that the cells do not look normal under a microscope. Atypical hyperplasia greatly increases the risk of developing breast cancer in the future. Surgery to remove the cells and the area around them is recommended, along with close follow-up.
What are the signs and symptoms of nipple discharge?
Benign discharge tends to occur in both breasts and only when the breast or nipple is squeezed. It is usually milky white or greenish in color. Discharge that is bloody or clear is more concerning.
What causes nipple discharge?
Discharge from the nipple is a common benign breast symptom. In women who are not pregnant, it can be caused by hormonal changes. Some medications can cause nipple discharge. Nipple discharge should be checked by an ob-gyn.
What skin changes can affect the breasts?
Breast skin can be affected by common skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema. Yeast infection of the skin folds under the breast is a common condition. Women with large breasts are more likely to have skin yeast infections.
Some skin changes of the breast raise concern for cancer. These include redness, warmth, dimpling of the skin, and ulcers (small, red, painful blisters). Nipple changes such as crusting, scaling, or a nipple that has changed shape also raise concern. Please tell us about any skin changes that you notice.
How are benign breast conditions evaluated?
If you have breast symptoms, call our office. You likely will have a breast exam. In some cases, you may need to have an imaging test of your breast. Breast imaging can be done with mammography, an ultrasound exam, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Imaging may be followed by a biopsy.
What kind of follow-up will I need if I have a benign breast condition?
Most benign breast conditions do not increase your risk of cancer, but some do. These include certain types of breast lumps. If you have a condition that increases the risk of cancer, more frequent clinical breast exams and imaging tests over the next 1 to 2 years may be recommended. Follow-up is based on your age, health risks, and test results.
What is breast self-awareness?
Breast self-awareness means being aware of how your breasts normally look and feel. Knowing what is normal for you will help you detect any changes that may signal a problem. Call our office if you notice
- a new lump
- skin changes
- skin thickening
- unexplained reddening
- nipple scaling or redness
- pain (especially if it is in one place or is getting worse)
How is myomectomy done?
The method used depends on the location and size of the fibroids. In laparotomy, an incision (cut) is made in the abdomen. The fibroids are removed through the incision. In laparoscopy, a laparoscope is used to view the inside of the pelvis. Other tools are inserted through another small incision to remove the fibroids.
Hysteroscopy can be used to remove fibroids that protrude into the cavity of the uterus. A resectoscope is inserted through the hysteroscope. The resectoscope destroys fibroids with electricity or a laser beam. Although it cannot remove fibroids deep in the walls of the uterus, it can often control the bleeding these fibroids cause. In most cases, an overnight stay in the hospital is not necessary.
Myomectomy has risks, including bleeding and infection. Hysteroscopy may cause other problems related to the use of fluid during the procedure. Your health care professional can explain all of the risks to you.
How is hysterectomy done?
In a hysterectomy, the uterus may be removed through a cut in the abdomen or through the vagina. The method used depends on the size of the fibroids.
For pain relief, you may be given general anesthesia, which puts you to sleep, or regional anesthesia, which blocks feeling in the lower part of your body. You may need to stay in the hospital for a few days after this procedure.
Are there other treatments besides medication and surgery?
Other treatment options include the following:
- Uterine artery embolization (UAE)—In this procedure, tiny particles (about the size of grains of sand) are injected into the blood vessels that lead to the uterus. The particles cut off the blood flow to the fibroid and cause it to shrink. UAE can be done as an outpatient procedure in most cases. The effect of UAE on future pregnancies is not clear.
- Radiofrequency ablation (RFA)—This procedure uses energy and heat to shrink the size of fibroids. RFA can be done with laparoscopy, which involves only small incisions. An ultrasound probe and a laparoscope are inserted into the abdomen to help find the fibroids. Then thin needles are inserted through the abdomen into the fibroids, to heat and destroy the fibroid tissue.