An Overview on Cancerous and Non Cancerous Breast Lumps

An Overview on Cancerous and Non Cancerous Breast Lumps

Cancer is a term that can terrify anyone. With the increasing number of breast cancer cases around the world, women usually face a fear factor when it comes to breast lumps. 

Highlights

  • Most of the breast lumps are benign and non-cancerous in nature
  • Many precancerous lumps can turn into a malignant tumour
  • Biopsy is the best method to evaluate lumps providing further course of action (treatment)

While seeing a lump could be frightening, most of the lumps are non-cancerous or benign. Still, if you find lump on the breasts, it is always good to see the doctor right away.

Breast Lumps

There could be several factors behind the growth of lumps on the breasts. Breast Lumps are characterized by swelling, bump or localized thickening in the breast of a woman. In simple words, the tissue or the fleshy part is different or feels different from the surrounding tissue or the tissues in the same area of the breast. Both males and females can develop lumps but it’s most common in women.

The lump growth can occur anytime and at any age. While only tests can confirm whether it’s cancerous and non-cancerous, the early the detection the higher the chances of treating the disease. Let’s have a brief look at each of the common types of breast lumps and how they are diagnosed and treated.

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1. Breast Cysts

Breast cysts are benign fluid-filled sac develop within the breast tissue. These are harmless and very common and can be rarely linked to breast cancer. Breast cysts are common in women over age 40 but they can occur at any age.

Composition and location

They can be tiny or large and tender. The cyst often feels smooth. They are usually found deeper inside or near the surface, just close to the chest wall. If it’s closer to chest wall, it is easy to detect but if it is deeper inside, it would be difficult to differentiate it from other types of lumps.

Health Effects

Large breast cyst can be painful especially just before the menstruation cycle.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Mammogram (X-ray film of the soft tissue) is not enough to diagnose the cyst; the doctor would perhaps order an ultrasound. In case of solid cysts, biopsy may be needed. For fluid-filled cysts, the doctor would take a sample of the cyst fluid by drawing it through fine needle. This removes the fluid from the cyst. If the cyst deflates and the fluid is non-bloody, then this is a benign breast cyst.

2. Breast Fibroadenomas

These are benign and solid tissue lumps. These develop most commonly in women aged between 20 and 40. While these lumps are benign, they can increase the risk of developing breast cancer in future. It is believed that fibroadenomas occur due to abnormal reaction to estrogen.

Composition and Location

They are firm in nature and feel like round breast lump. They are found near the surface of the breast. Fibroadenomas usually move around in the breast, hence they are often called as ‘breast mouse’.

Health Effects

They can grow larger but sometimes disappear naturally.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Usually, biopsy is done to diagnose this condition. Your doctor might recommend its removal to rule out any slightest indication of breast cancer. Fibroadenoma is treated with methods such as lumpectomy and radiofrequency ablation.

Other Conditions that can give rise to breast lumps

Ductal or Lobular Hyperplasia

These are precancerous lumps which may increase the chances of cancer later.

Lobular Carcinoma In Situ (LCIS) and Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS)

They are non-invasive cancer types means they are not yet broken from the base membrane.

Adenosis

It’s a benign condition where there is increase in the size of breast lobules (milk-producing glands)

Intraductal Papillomas

These are non-cancerous tumours which develop in the breast milk ducts and noticeable behind the nipple. Some may experience pain or nipple discharge.

Mastitis

It is inflammation of the breast tissue caused by infection. Red and swelling occurs on the affected area accompanied by pain.

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Phyllodes Tumours

These uncommon lumps could be benign or malignant. Since they can become malignant in future, these are treated the same way as a cancerous tumour.

Duct Ectasia

In this condition, the milk ducts become clogged resulting in grayish discharge. Duct Ectasia is common in women around the age of menopause.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer refers to malignant lumps that abnormally grow out of breast tissue cells. They have tendency of spreading to the adjacent tissues or various other organs of the body. Breast cancer can occur in both men and women but mostly latter are affected by this cancer.

Composition and Location

It can be located deeper inside the breast or sometimes in the armpit area. Malignant breast cancer will be irregular in shape or often look like a golf ball. It is firm and doesn’t move around, however, the tissue around it might be movable that confuses a person while self-examining.

Health Effects

Most of the times there are no symptoms of pain so it becomes hard to confirm the diagnosis.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Biopsy is the most common method of diagnosis although sometimes mammogram, ultrasound and MRI are also used. The treatments rely on which stage cancer has reached. 

Besides surgery, breast cancer is treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormonal therapies are used.

If you are really concern about the lumps, you may want to choose the biopsy as it is the most accurate method of distinguishing between a cancerous and non-cancerous lump.

Sources

1. Santen RJ.(2017, January 11).Benign Breast Disease in Women read more
2. Zhang BN., et al.(2012).Guidelines on the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer read more
3. Breast Cancer Early Detection and Diagnosis(n.d.). American Cancer Society read more
4. Breast Cancer Treatment – Patient Version(2017, November 02). National Cancer Institute read more
5. What are Tumors?(n.d.). Johns Hopkins Medicine read more
6. Fibroadenomas of the Breast(2017, September 20). American Cancer Society read more
7. Non-cancerous Breast Conditions(n.d.). American Cancer Society 
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