Over the course of a woman’s lifespan, she may experience some common, non-cancerous changes in her breast tissue, including breast cysts, fibroadenomas and infections.
One of the most common breast issues are cysts. Breast cysts are generally harmless sacs of fluid within the breast tissue and can occur in one or both breasts. They develop naturally as the tissue changes, and can be influenced by hormonal fluctuations. Cysts typically occur in women over the age of 35 who have not yet gone through menopause. They can be soft or firm, and may cause tenderness when pressure is applied. All breasts lumps should be evaluated with a diagnostic mammogram (depending on age) and an ultrasound. Depending on those results, a biopsy may be recommended. Treatment for cysts can include conservative management (close monitoring) or aspiration (removing the fluid with a fine needle).
Another common breast change is a fibroadenoma, which is a solid non-cancerous growth developing from the lobule of the breast tissue. Fibroadenomas do not increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer. They are generally small (1-3 centimeters) and painless, although some can be tender. Fibroandenomas generally occur in younger women, but can occur at any age. They typically do not change in size. Fibroadenomas are visualized on mammogram or ultrasound, and require a biopsy for diagnosis. If they are bothersome, a surgeon is able to remove them. Otherwise, no treatment is needed.
Mastitis, or infection of the breast tissue, causes redness to the breast, pain and warmth to the touch. It most commonly affects women who are breastfeeding, but can occur in women who are not. Women who are affected by mastitis may also experience fever and chills. Primary treatment for mastitis is antibiotics.
If you experience any changes in your breast tissue, make an appointment with your healthcare provider for an evaluation and to discuss the most appropriate plan of care. While most changes are benign, or non-cancerous, all changes should be evaluated by a medical professional.
Written by: Rachel Thompson, APRN