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Benign breast problems: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About benign breast problems

Benign breast problems refer to various changes seen in the breast tissue which are non –cancerous or benign in nature. Breast changes may occur during menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause. They may be physiological or benign. Though such breast problems are harmless, they may be a source of anxiety to the individual.

Benign breast problems: Incidence, age and sex

The occurrence of benign breast problems are generally seen in women between 20 to 50 years of age, with increased prevalence in younger women. Such breast problems are often encountered in the general population.

Signs and symptoms of benign breast problems: Diagnosis

Several breast disorders like fibrocystic disorder, fibroadenoma, traumatic fat necrosis, papilloma and other cyclical breast changes fall under the category of benign breast problems. Following are some symptoms which may be encountered in an affected individual:

  • Fibroadenoma- This is the most commonly seen benign breast problem occurring in women. An individual may experience mild pain, swelling or itchiness in one or both breasts. The breast feels lumpy due to presence of numerous fluid filled sacs, called cysts. These breast lumps may vary in size and can be either localised to one part of breast or generally spread throughout the breast tissue.
  • Fibroadenoma- This is a condition characterised by presence of firm but painless breast lumps, most commonly seen in 20-30 years of age group.
  • Traumatic fat necrosis- This refers to minor injuries to breast tissue which may result in its micro calcifications. This is usually diagnosed accidentally on imaging tests of breast.
  • Papilloma- This disorder refers to wart like growth in the lining of the milk ducts, which may cause a bloody discharge from nipple.

Some women may experience breast fullness and constant pain (also called mastalgia) in the premenstrual phase. This is a normal physiological process which occurs due to increased breast fluid in response to hormonal changes. But a detailed evaluation may be needed if such features do not follow a cyclical pattern.

Most of these conditions are benign but need to be investigated to rule out any malignant cause. It is advisable to conduct a specialist who shall conduct a breast examination and other investigations like mammography, fine needle aspiration cytology and ultrasonography.

Causes and prevention of benign breast problems

The exact cause of benign breast problems is not clear but clinical studies point towards the role of hormonal changes. Other factors include the breast fluid which may show augmented production or increased consistency.

Benign breast problems: Complications

Fibroadenoma and papilloma may lead to increased risk of developing malignancy in women who have a positive family history of breast cancer.

Benign breast problems: Treatment

It is essential to evaluate an individual who experiences any symptoms of breast disorder like lumps, nipple discharge or tenderness, and especially if these symptoms persist after the menstrual cycle. Post menopausal women are advised to discontinue hormone therapy if they experience any new lumps or tenderness in breast. Regular check ups for evaluation of breast disorders are recommended. Moreover, education of the patient including self examination of the breast is of paramount importance in all women.