Understanding Benign and Malignant Breast Conditions
Understanding Benign and Malignant Breast Disorders
Throughout our lives, breast tissue undergoes many changes. Sometimes, these changes are caused by breast disorders, which are extremely common, with up to 1 million women in the U.S. experiencing non-life-threatening breast disease each year. Most often, breast disorders are caused by benign (non-cancerous) conditions, such as polymastia, but in certain cases, breast disorders may be malignant (cancerous). The experienced team at Premier Surgical Network provides advanced treatments to help patients manage breast disorders.
Common Types of Breast Disorders
There are many different types of breast disorders. Some conditions, such as polymastia, may be present from birth, while others, like gigantomastia, develop later in life. It’s important to become familiar with your normal breast size and shape through regular breast exams. Feeling a lump or mass is often the first indication of a breast disorder. Other signs and symptoms of breast disorders may include breast pain, changes in breast tissue, changes in the breast’s skin, such as dimpling or pitting, changes in the nipple or shape of the breast, and nipple discharge.
While breast disorders are most often benign, it’s important to have any unusual changes or symptoms evaluated by a medical professional. Understanding what’s going on with your body can provide peace of mind, and getting the right diagnosis is essential in planning the next steps, including treatment if necessary.
We help patients diagnose and treat many breast disorders, including:
- Breast pain and tenderness: The most common type of breast pain occurs during a woman’s menstrual cycle when the breast tissue becomes swollen. Other causes of breast pain include injury, infection, or cysts. If you have a suspicious lump or mass on your breast or notice any sudden changes in your breast size or shape, it’s important to get evaluated by a physician. Your doctor will determine whether you require needs further testing.
- Polymastia: Polymastia is a condition in which a person has more than two breasts and/or nipples. Also known as three breast disorder, it is typically harmless, but extra breast tissue can develop benign or cancerous tumors in some cases. We can offer treatment including removal and more if polymastia is causing you physical or psychological distress.
- Gigantomastia: Gigantomastia is a rare condition that causes excessive breast growth, resulting in breasts that are disproportionately large compared to the rest of the body. Sometimes referred to as gigantic breast disorder, it can occur at puberty, during pregnancy, or for unknown reasons. Treatment aims to alleviate pain and restricted movement by reducing breast size with medications or surgery to remove excess tissue.
- Gynecomastia: Gynecomastia is an enlargement of breast tissue seen in male patients. Often, it is caused by high levels of estrogen, or testosterone and estrogen levels that are unbalanced.
- Cysts: A cyst, which can feel soft or hard to the touch, is a fluid-filled sac that develops in the breast tissue. Most cysts are benign (non-cancerous), but a cyst aspiration can be completed to relieve tenderness or to rule out cancer.
- Fibroadenomas: Fibroadenomas are benign, painless lumps. They may vary in size and can be found anywhere in the breast tissue.
- Fat necrosis: Fat necrosis occurs when painless lumps form in the breast tissue. Fat necrosis is caused by trauma to the breast tissue or damage to the fatty tissues and may occur after a lumpectomy and/or radiation from a previous cancerous lump. Fat necrosis lumps, sometimes with breast dimpling, are benign and do not increase your risk of cancer. Your doctor may want to perform a mammogram before deciding whether to remove it.
- Sclerosing adenosis: This breast condition involves an excessive amount of tissue growing in the breast, and pain may occur as a result.
- Generalized breast lumpiness: Normal breast changes in women are the most accepted cause of most breast lumpiness. If you have lumpy breasts, it’s important to schedule regular check-ups with your doctor, perform regular breast self-examinations, and get regular mammograms.
- Uneven breast size: While this is common, especially during the early phases of breast development, your doctor can examine any mass, abscess, or cyst in the breast.
- Hard lump: If you detect a lump that is hard, unmovable, attached to your chest wall, or if you are experiencing dimpling or puckering of the breast, it is important to consult your doctor for further examination.
Treatment Options and Diagnosis
Treatment options may vary depending on the type of breast disorder that you have. In some instances, a growth or lump may require surgery. However, many breast disorders do not require treatment or surgery. In any case, seeking a proper diagnosis is an important step to ensure timely treatment and prevent future complications.
If we feel your symptoms warrant additional testing, we may recommend a breast biopsy to provide more insight. Regular mammograms can be an important diagnostic tool, so be sure to follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding how often you need to go. Follow-up imaging can be performed as necessary.
Surgical Interventions for Breast Disorders
When conservative measures to manage breast disorders don’t provide relief, surgical interventions may be an option. We recommend surgery when symptoms begin to interfere with a patient’s comfort and when not addressing the issue could lead to complications down the road.
We offer various types of breast cancer surgery as well as procedures for benign breast disorders. Some of the common types of surgery we perform include:
Cyst aspiration is a procedure to drain benign fluid-filled breast cysts. It is performed by inserting a thin needle into the cyst and draining the fluid.
Recovery time for a cyst aspiration is minimal, and it can be done in a doctor’s office using local anesthetic. It provides temporary relief, though cysts can reaccumulate fluid over time.
Fibroadenomas are solid, benign breast tumors of the gland and fibrous tissue. Removal involves an excisional biopsy, which is surgically removing the entire lump.
It is generally a minimally invasive outpatient procedure done under local or general anesthesia. It provides definitive treatment by removing the mass.
Fat Necrosis Excision
Fat necrosis excision involves surgically removing damaged tissue via excisional biopsy. Once removed, the tissue will be sent for biopsy to confirm the fat necrosis diagnosis.
Local anesthesia can be used, but the procedure often requires general anesthesia.
It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions after any breast-related surgery. Rest will be essential in the days following your procedure. You may need to avoid strenuous activity for a specified amount of time.
Make sure you attend any follow-up appointments that are scheduled and continue to check your breasts to monitor for recurrence.
Promoting Breast Health and Preventive Measures
The best way to safeguard your breast health is through preventative measures that make early intervention possible if an issue arises. You can help keep your breasts healthy with:
- Regular self-exams: Perform monthly self-exams to check for any new, unusual lumps/changes in breasts.
- Annual mammograms: Current guidelines recommend starting yearly mammograms at age 40-45 for average-risk women.
- Lifestyle factors: Maintain a healthy diet, exercise, limit alcohol, quit smoking, and discuss risk factors with your doctor to explore genetic testing.
When it comes to breast disorders and understanding your risk, early detection is key. Explore the common causes of breast pain and associated symptoms, and arm yourself with the knowledge of when to seek medical attention.
Contact Us to Schedule an Appointment
Are you experiencing pain, lumps, or other breast concerns? We are here to guide you through your options. Reach out today to see how we can help create a personalized treatment plan that provides comfort and peace of mind.