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Breast lump *Fibrocystic changes are benign breast

Alternative Names: Breast mass *Most often in the upper outer quadrant and
the underside of the breast where most of the
Definition of Breast lump: A breast lump is milk-producing glands are located.
a swelling, protuberance, or lump in the
breast. *Fibrocystic changes generally begin when
women are in their twenties or thirties and
Considerations: usually last until menopause.

Is there a difference between fibrocystic

Normal breast tissue is present in both males breast condition and fibrocystic breast
and females of all ages. This tissue responds disease?
to hormonal changes and, therefore, certain
lumps can come and go. No. In the past, fibrocystic breast condition
was often called fibrocystic breast disease.
Breast lumps may appear at all ages: However, it is not a disease, but a condition.
Most women tend to have some lumpiness in
• Infants may have breast lumps related their breasts. Therefore, it is now being more
to estrogen from the mother. The lump appropriately termed fibrocystic breast
generally goes away on its own as the condition. Other names that have been
estrogen clears from the baby's body. It applied to fibrocystic breast condition include
can happen to boys and girls. mammary dysplasia, chronic cystic mastitis,
• Young girls often develop "breast buds" diffuse cystic mastopathy, and benign breast
that appear just before the beginning of disease.
puberty. These bumps may be tender.
Fibroadenomas are noncancerous lumps
They are common around age 9, but may
that feel rubbery and are easily moveable
happen as early as age 6.
within the breast tissue. Like fibrocystic
• Teenage boys may develop breast
changes, they occur most often during the
enlargement and lumps because of reproductive years. Usually, they are not
hormonal changes in mid-puberty. tender and, except in rare cases, do not
Although this may distress the teen, the become cancerous later. A doctor may feel
lumps or enlargement generally go away fairly certain from an exam that a particular
on their own over a period of months. lump is a fibroadenoma. The only way to be
• Breast lumps in an adult woman raise sure, however, is to remove or biopsy it.
concern for breast cancer, even though
most lumps turn out to be not cancerous. *Fibroadenomas are generally seen in
young women between ages 15 and 30 or in
Common Causes: Lumps in a woman are those who are pregnant. Women who are
often caused by fibrocystic changes, postmenopausal or have had their ovaries
fibroadenomas, and cysts. removed have decreased chances of
developing a fibroadenoma. Most
fibroadenomas disappear with age. Those that
Fibrocystic changes can occur in either or
recur, stop growing after reaching a size of 2-
both breasts. These changes are common in
3 centimetres.
women (especially during the reproductive
years), and are considered a normal variation
of breast tissue. Having fibrocystic breasts *Fibroadenomas are known to be estrogen
does not increase your risk for breast cancer. sensitive and hence are seen increasing in
It does, however, make it more difficult to size before a period or during pregnancy.
interpret lumps that you or your doctor find Sometimes, postmenopausal women
on exam. Many women feel tenderness in undergoing estrogen therapy may also
addition to the lumps and bumps associated develop fibroadenomas.
with fibrocystic breasts.

*The exact cause of fibroadenomas is
unknown. They seem to be influenced Home Care:
by estrogen, because they appear most often
in premenopausal or pregnant women, or in For fibrocystic changes, birth control pills are
women who are postmenopausal and taking often helpful. Other women are helped by:
HRT (hormone replacement therapy). Most
fibroadenomas come and go during your
menstrual cycle, when your hormone levels • Avoiding caffeine and chocolate
are changing. • Limiting fat and increasing fiber in the diet

Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that often feel like Taking vitamin E, vitamin B complex, or
soft grapes. These can sometimes be tender, evening primrose oil supplements
especially just before your menstrual period.
Cysts may be drained in the doctor's office. If Call your health care provider if:
the fluid removed is clear or greenish, and the
lump disappears completely after it is
drained, no further treatment is needed. If Call your doctor if:
the fluid is bloody, it is sent to the lab to look
for cancer cells. If the lump doesn't disappear, • The skin on your breast appears dimpled
or recurs, it is usually removed surgically. or wrinkled (like the peel of an orange)
• You find a new breast lump during your
Other causes of breast lumps include: monthly self-exam
• You have bruising on your breast, but did
• Milk cysts (sacs filled with milk) and not experience any injury
infections (mastitis), which may turn into • You have nipple discharge, especially if it
an abscess. These typically occur if you is bloody or pinkish (blood-tinged)
are breastfeeding or have recently given • Your nipple is inverted (turned inward)
but normally is not inverted
• Breast cancer, found
on mammogram or ultrasound, then
Also call if:
a biopsy. Men also can get breast cancer.
• Injury -- sometimes if your breast is
badly bruised, there will be a collection of • You are a woman, age 20 or older, and
blood that feels like a lump. These lumps want guidance on how to perform a
tend to get better on their own in a breast self-examination
matter of days or weeks. If not, your • You are a woman over age 40 and have
doctor may have to drain the blood. not had a mammogram in the past year
• Lipoma -- a collection of fatty tissue.
• Intraductal papilloma -- a small growth What to expect at your health care
inside a milk duct of the breast. This often provider's office:
occurs near the areola, the colored part of
the breast surrounding the nipple, in Your doctor will get a complete history from
women ages 35-55. It is harmless and you, with special attention to factors that may
often cannot be felt. In some cases the increase your risk of breast cancer. The health
only symptom is a watery, pink discharge care provider will perform a thorough breast
from the nipple. Since a watery or bloody examination. If you don't know how to
discharge can also be a sign of breast perform breast self-examination, ask your
cancer, your doctor should check this. health care provider to teach you the proper

Medical history questions regarding breast
lumps include: Prevention:

• When and how did you first notice the Breast cancer screening is an important way
lump? to find breast cancer early, when it is most
• Do you have other symptoms such as easily treated and cured.
pain, nipple discharge, or fever?
• Where is the lump located? • Get regular mammograms.
• Do you do breast self-exams, and is this • If you are over age 20, consider doing a
lump a recent change? monthly breast self-exam (See: Breast
• Have you had any type of injury to your self exam)
breast? • If you are over age 20, have a complete
• Are you taking any hormones, breast exam by your provider at least
medications, or supplements? every 3 years -- every year if you are
over 40.
Tests that may be performed include:
Having fibrocystic breast tissue, mastitis, or
breast tenderness related to PMS does NOT
• Biopsy of the lump
put you at greater risk for breast cancer.
• Mammogram Having fibrocystic breasts does, however,
• Needle aspiration of a cyst and make your self-exam more confusing,
examination of the fluid under a because there are many normal lumps and
microscope bumps.
• Study of nipple discharge under a
microscope To prevent breast cancer:
• Ultrasound to see if the lump is solid or a
cyst • Exercise regularly
• Reduce fat intake
Treatment of a breast lump depends on the • Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and other
cause. Solid breast lumps are often removed high fiber foods
surgically. Cysts can be drained. Breast • Do not drink more than 1 or 1 1/2 glasses
infections require antibiotics. If breast of alcohol a day
cancer is diagnosed, most women receive
surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or
hormonal therapy. Discuss these options
carefully and thoroughly with your doctor.

If you have a family history of breast cancer,

your doctor may also suggest testing for
genes that make you more likely to get breast