About 13% of American women will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetimes, and nearly 44,000 women will die from breast cancer this year in the United States. Breast cancer is the second-most common type of cancer among American women, exceeded only by lung cancer.
With those kinds of statistics, it’s easy to understand why so many women are concerned about changes they notice in their breasts. Lumps, areas of tenderness, nipple changes — all these can be signs of breast cancer.
But there is some good news: Not all breast lumps are caused by cancer — in fact, 60-80% of lumps aren’t caused by or related to cancer in any way. Instead, they’re caused by one of several conditions known collectively as noncancerous breast disease.
Michael Renfrow, MD, FACS, and Steven Kanter, MD, FACS, and the team at South Florida Surgical Group want women in Miami, Florida, to feel empowered about their breast health. Here, we review six types of noncancerous breast diseases you should know about.
#1 Simple cysts
Simple cysts are small, fluid-filled sacs that form inside the breast tissue. You can develop a cyst (or several) at just about anytime during adulthood, but they tend to be most common among women in their 40s.
Some cysts are so tiny, they can’t be felt. Larger cysts feel like round or oval lumps under your skin that move slightly when you gently press them. Some cysts feel tender when you touch them, and that tenderness tends to get worse just before your period begins each month.
Fibrosis refers to formation of fibrous tissue, and when it happens in your breast, you might feel lumps, bumps, or bands of tissue underneath your skin. These areas may feel extra firm or rubbery compared to the surrounding tissue.
Some women develop fibrous tissue along with breast cysts, a combination referred to as fibrocystic breast changes. Fibrosis and cysts can both be associated with an increase in breast tenderness, especially around your periods.
Mastitis is an acute inflammation of breast tissue, often occurring alongside an infection. With mastitis, your breast will be sore, swollen, red, warm, and tender to the touch. Some infections cause fever and chills.
In lactating women, mastitis happens when the ducts are blocked or unexpressed breast milk becomes a harbor for bacteria. This type of mastitis is called lactation mastitis. When mastitis happens in non-lactating women, it’s often associated with a cracked or pierced nipple or conditions that affect your immune system.
#4 Duct ectasia
Duct ectasia happens when a milk duct dilates and the walls of the duct become thick. These changes can cause the duct to become blocked, causing fluid build-up in the breast tissue. In a few cases, duct ectasia leads to changes in the way the nipple looks, or it can cause nipple discharge.
If scar tissue forms around the duct, you may be able to feel a hard lump inside your breast. Duct ectasia is more common in the years leading up to menopause, but it can happen later, too.
In adenosis, your breast-producing glands are enlarged and you have more glands than normal. Sometimes, scar tissue forms, causing discomfort in the breast, especially when you press on the area.
Adenosis often happens alongside fibrocystic breast changes. If you have an enlarged area of adenosis, you may be able to feel the enlarged ducts as one or more lumps in your breast.
#6 Fat necrosis and oil cysts
Fat necrosis happens when breast tissue is damaged, usually from a traumatic injury or from breast surgery or radiation therapy. Typically, injury causes scar tissue to form.
But in fat necrosis, your breast fat cells die off and release their liquid contents. Cysts form around the fatty debris — these cysts are called oil cysts.
You may feel these areas as lumps or areas of hard or firm tissue. The skin overlying the area may look normal, or it may have texture or color changes.
Make breast health a priority
Although many types of noncancerous breast diseases go away on their own or don’t require medical treatment, any breast change needs to be evaluated by a doctor to rule out the possibility of breast cancer.
If you have any sort of breast change, don’t take a wait-and-see approach: Take action. Call 305-279-9522 or book an appointment online with South Florida Surgical Group today.