Benign breast conditions (also known as benign breast diseases) are noncancerous disorders of the breast. They can occur in both women and men.
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 don’t 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 aren’t cancer . Still, a biopsy is needed to know whether or not something is cancer.
This section discusses benign breast conditions in women.
Learn about benign breast conditions in men.
While benign breast conditions are not breast cancer, 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 [30-32]:
Some lifestyle factors during the teen years may affect the risk of benign breast conditions in adulthood.
Some factors may increase risk. For example, drinking alcohol during the teen years may increase the risk of benign breast conditions [33-35].
Other factors may decrease risk. For example, eating foods that contain carotenoids (like melons, carrots, sweet potatoes and squash), nuts and beans during the teen years may lower risk the risk of benign breast conditions [36-37].
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's 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, but atypical hyperplasia does so to a greater degree .
For a summary of research studies on hyperplasia and breast cancer, visit the Breast Cancer Research Studies section.
For women with atypical hyperplasia (but not usual hyperplasia), there are special breast cancer screening recommendations.
Women with atypical hyperplasia should :
This care helps ensure that if breast cancer does develop, it's caught early.
Learn more about breast cancer screening for women at higher risk.
Women with atypical hyperplasia (but not usual hyperplasia) should strongly consider taking a risk-lowering drug (tamoxifen or raloxifene) to try to lower their risk of breast cancer .
For women with atypical hyperplasia (but not usual hyperplasia), taking a risk-lowering drug can reduce the risk of invasive breast cancer by 86 percent .
Both tamoxifen and raloxifene can lower the risk of :
Tamoxifen and raloxifene are the only two drugs FDA-approved for breast cancer risk reduction.
Tamoxifen and raloxifene only reduce the risk of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers. Neither drug reduces the risk of estrogen receptor-negative cancers .
Both pre- and postmenopausal women with LCIS can take tamoxifen. Raloxifene is only for use among postmenopausal women.
Although raloxifene is slightly less effective than tamoxifen in reducing breast cancer risk, it has fewer harmful health effects . This makes raloxifene a better choice for some women.
For example, tamoxifen increases the risk of cataracts and cancer of the uterus, but raloxifene does not. Tamoxifen also increases the risk of blood clots in the lungs and large veins more than raloxifene .
Learn more about tamoxifen and raloxifene.
For a summary of research studies on the use of tamoxifen and raloxifene to reduce breast cancer risk, visit the Breast Cancer Research Studies section.
Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that are almost always benign.
Cysts are more common in premenopausal women. After menopause, cysts occur less often .
Cysts do not increase the risk of breast cancer .
Most cysts are too small to feel. Some, however, 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) .
Often, cysts don’t need treatment.
If they’re 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 don’t 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 and pain. You may feel a lump.
They occur most often in women ages 35-55 [42-43].
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 [41-42].
Sclerosing adenosis is made up of small breast lumps caused by enlarged lobules . It may be painful and you may feel a lump.
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 [44-45].
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, and others have found no increase in risk [46-48].
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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