Benign breast conditions (also known as benign breast diseases) are noncancerous disorders that can affect the breast.
There are many types of benign breast conditions. Your health care provider may use the term fibrocystic change to describe a range of benign breast conditions.
Some benign breast conditions can cause discomfort or pain and need treatment. Others do not need treatment.
Many benign breast conditions mimic the symptoms of breast cancer and need tests (and sometimes a biopsy) for diagnosis. If you need a biopsy, try not to panic. In the U.S., most biopsy results do not show cancer .
Benign breast conditions can occur in both women and men.
Learn more about benign breast conditions in men.
Benign breast conditions are not breast cancer. However, some types (especially those with abnormal-looking cells, such as hyperplasia) increase the risk of breast cancer.
Learn more about hyperplasia and breast cancer risk.
A few factors can increase the risk of benign breast conditions, including [33-35]:
Some lifestyle factors during the teen years may also affect the risk of benign breast conditions in adulthood.
For example, drinking alcohol during the teen years may increase the risk of benign breast conditions [36-38]. Eating foods that contain carotenoids (like melons, carrots, sweet potatoes and squash), nuts and beans through the teen years may lower risk [39-40].
These topics are under active study.
Learn about lifestyle factors in childhood and the teen years that may affect breast cancer risk.
There are many benign breast conditions.
Benign breast conditions differ from each other in how the cells and their growth patterns look under a microscope. For example, hyperplasia cells (and their growth patterns) look different from those of fibroadenoma.
If you are diagnosed with a benign breast condition (or are told you have a fibrocystic change), it is important to find out which type you have.
Some benign breast conditions are described below. (Please note this list is not exhaustive.)
Hyperplasia describes an overgrowth (proliferation) of cells. It most often occurs on the inside of the lobules or milk ducts in the breast.
There are two main types of hyperplasia—usual and atypical. Both increase the risk of breast cancer, though atypical hyperplasia does so to a greater degree .
For women with atypical hyperplasia (but not usual hyperplasia), there are special breast cancer screening recommendations, starting at age 30. Before age 30, women with atypical hyperplasia should follow guidelines for women at average risk and get regular clinical breast exams .
Starting at age 30, women with atypical hyperplasia should :
This care helps ensure that if breast cancer does develop, it is caught early when the chances of survival are highest.
Women with atypical hyperplasia (but not usual hyperplasia) may also consider taking a risk-lowering drug (tamoxifen or raloxifene) to lower the risk of developing breast cancer .
Learn more about hyperplasia and breast cancer risk.
Learn more about breast cancer screening for women at higher risk.
Learn more about risk-lowering drugs.
Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that are almost always benign. They are more common in premenopausal women. After menopause, cysts occur less often .
Cysts do not increase the risk of breast cancer .
Although most cysts are too small to feel, some are large and may feel like lumps in the breast and may cause breast pain .
Cysts are diagnosed with breast ultrasound and/or a fine needle aspiration (fine needle biopsy) .
Learn more about breast ultrasound.
Learn more about fine needle aspiration.
Often, cysts do not need treatment.
If they are painful or can be felt (and might interfere with a clinical breast exam), they can be drained (aspirated).
At this time, we don’t know what causes cysts to develop.
Some researchers have suggested dietary factors, such as caffeine, might increase the risk of cysts. However, few data support a link between cysts and diet or other lifestyle factors .
Learn more about the early detection and diagnosis of cysts.
Fibroadenomas are solid benign tumors. They are most common in women ages 15-35 .
Most fibroadenomas do not increase the risk of breast cancer .
Often, fibroadenomas do not need treatment. However, if it’s large or causes discomfort or worry, it may be removed .
Learn more about the early detection and diagnosis of fibroadenomas.
Intraductal papillomas are small growths that occur in the milk ducts of the breasts. They are usually close to the nipple and can cause nipple discharge. A lump may be felt and may be painful.
They occur most often in women ages 35-55 [45-46].
Intraductal papillomas are removed with surgery, but need no further treatment .
Intraductal papillomas do not increase the risk of breast cancer unless they have abnormal cells or there is ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) in the nearby tissue [44-45].
Sclerosing adenosis is made up of small breast lumps caused by enlarged lobules . A lump may be felt and may be painful.
Sclerosing adenosis may be found on a mammogram. Because it has a distorted shape, it may be mistaken for breast cancer. A biopsy may be needed to rule out breast cancer.
Sclerosing adenosis does not need treatment .
Sclerosing adenosis may be found with atypical hyperplasia, lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) .
Some studies have found sclerosing adenosis slightly increases the risk of breast cancer and others have found no increase in risk [47-48].
Radial scars (also called complex sclerosing lesions) have a core of connective tissue fibers. Milk ducts and lobules grow out from this core.
Although radial scars can look like breast cancer on a mammogram, they are not cancer.
Radial scars are surgically removed, but need no further treatment .
Most often, radial scars are a secondary finding when a biopsy is done for other reasons.
Some studies have found radial scars increase the risk of breast cancer, while other studies have not [49-51]. Radial scars are typically found alongside other breast conditions, which may explain these mixed findings .
Learn more about detecting benign breast conditions.
Learn more about diagnosing benign breast conditions.
Facts for Life: Benign Breast Conditions
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