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5 Breast Problems That Aren't Breast Cancer

Updated: May 8, 2023

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The biggest concern with finding a lump in one's breast is breast cancer. But 9 out of 10 breast lumps are not cancerous. They usually are formed due to other underlying benign breast problems, the most common of which are cysts, benign masses, and infections. Such problems may go away on their own or are easily treated.

Types of Benign Breast Problems

1. Breast Pain

Breast pain is any discomfort, tenderness, or pain in the breast or underarm region. It may occur for a number of reasons associated with activity, menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, or certain medications. Some women have lumpy breast tissue called fibrocystic breasts, which may be more painful during certain times of the month.

Breast pain almost always goes away with time. It is generally not a sign of breast cancer; pain as a symptom of breast cancer usually occurs during advanced stages of breast cancer. Unfortunately, there is no true cure for breast pain.

2. Benign Breast Tumour

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A benign breast tumour is a non-cancerous tumour in the breast, the most common of which is known as fibroadenoma. They feel like hard, round lumps in the breast. They are easy to move around under the skin as opposed to being stuck in one place and typically don’t hurt. Women of any age can develop fibroadenomas, though it usually develops in younger, premenopausal women in their 20s and 30s.

Most fibroadenomas do not require treatment. Over time, they may grow in size or even shrink and disappear. They may get bigger during pregnancy and tend to shrink after menopause. Though, if a fibroadenoma grows, changes or causes pain, it's best to consult your doctor.

3. Breast Cyst

Breast cysts are fluid-filled sacs that develop in the breast tissue. There are a few different types of common breast cysts.

  • Simple breast cyst: A single fluid-filled sac,

  • Complicated breast cyst: A bunch of cysts next to each other. Sometimes complicated cysts can be described as a bunch of grapes.

  • Complex breast cyst: A cyst that has a very small mass inside. These are less common. If you have a complex cyst, a biopsy may be recommended.

They can develop in women of any age, most often in women in their 40s and 50s, nearing menopause. If a cyst is large enough to be felt, it’s usually round and movable under the skin. Cysts also can cause pain, tenderness, or lumpiness in the breast, enlarging and becoming sore just before your period, then shrinking after your period.

You don’t need treatment in most cases of breast cysts. Simple breast cysts aren't harmful and sometimes go away on their own. They don’t usually develop in women after menopause. If a cyst causes pain or is uncomfortable, consult your doctor to see about draining the cyst fluid to relieve the pain.

4. Mastitis

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Mastitis is an infection of the breast which causes the breast to become red, painful, swollen, and warm. You may also develop flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills. It most commonly occurs among breastfeeding women where a milk duct becomes clogged, making them prone to bacterial infection.

Mastitis is usually treatable with antibiotics, depending on the severity. If you're breastfeeding, a very small amount of the antibiotic may go into your breast milk. There is no risk to your little one, but it might make them irritable and restless. Mastitis does not usually involve surgical treatment unless it leads to the formation of an abscess.

5. Abscess

A breast abscess is a fluid collection or pus pocket in the breast due to infection, usually as a result of untreated mastitis. It forms as a red, painful, swollen lump in the breast. You may have pus draining from your nipple and also develop flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills.

In most cases, abscesses will require surgical drainage. If it is near the surface of your skin, your doctor may drain an abscess by aspiration with a needle and syringe or by using a small incision. If the abscess is deep in the breast, surgery in an operating room may be required to completely drain the fluid.

The important thing to remember is not to ignore breast problems. You can develop benign breast problems at any time. They typically present as either pain or a lump. Be aware of your breast health so that should you develop any lump, pain, or breast changes, you can consult your doctor. If you are menopausal and develop breast problems, it is especially important to consult your doctor to rule out potential breast cancer. If you know what the breast problem is, you can get the required treatment and have peace of mind. If you are over the age of 40, or have a mother or sister over 40, it is advisable for you or her to go for a mammogram screening, even if you have no symptoms of breast problems. Subsidised screenings are available. Finding breast cancer early gives you better treatment options and a better chance of recovery.

You can read our Dream Letters if you're interested in learning more about breast cancer or other breast concerns.

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Join us in making a difference! To help support the fight against breast cancer and those affected by it, part of the proceeds at Dreamline Aesthetics and Dreamline Bodyclinic will be donated to the Breast Cancer Foundation.


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