Benign Breast Lumps

Ask any woman who has found a lump in her breast what her first thoughts were and it is almost guaranteed, the first thought was "cancer." Truth told, that's fair. Women have been well educated on the dangers of cancer, that breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women in North America, and we have been taught how to do breast self-examinations. Thankfully, all of this has lead to a decrease in deaths from breast cancer over the years.

Benign Breast Lumps Caused by Mastitis

The upside of the exercise is that not all breast lumps are cancer. Thank goodness! Breast lumps may appear for a variety of reasons, from mastitis to infections. Mastitis is common among women who are breastfeeding a baby (lactating). Sometimes the skin of the areola, the area around the nipple, is injured or cracked - especially in the beginning stages of breastfeeding. Bacteria sometimes enter these cracks and infection sets in, causing a hard area in the nipple. This is usually referred to as a "clogged milk duct." The best way to treat mastitis is with warm compresses and antibiotics.

· Wet some washcloths and microwave them for a very short time just to get them warm

· Hot showers are a good way to ease the pressure in the breast

· Gently massage the infected area during the heat treatment

· After the heat treatment, when the milk ducts are open either nurse the baby or express milk to relieve engorgement. By nursing or expressing the chances of infection are reduced.

· If the area is inflamed a red, consult the doctor for possible use of antibiotics to deal with infection. Unusual types of infections must be ruled out in order to promote good breast health.

Traumas Can Cause Benign Breast Lumps

Sometimes injuries cause breast lumps. A trauma can cause tiny blood vessels to rupture causing a hematoma, which is an area of localized bleeding that can be felt as a lump. Damage to fat cells in the breast can cause a condition known as fat necrosis. This kind of injury can also create a lump in the breast. A fat necrosis can also form at the site of a previous breast biopsy. Lumps that arise as a result of specific trauma are not cancerous.

Necrotic (dead) fat lumps along with scar tissue, hardened silicone or a rib bone pressing into the breast tissue causing compression fall under the category of breast pseudolumps. This kind of breast lump can feel quite hard and usually doesn't change shape or size during a menstrual cycle. It may or may not be moveable, depending upon its composition. It can be located on the surface of the breast or deeper into the tissue, close to the chest wall. A pseudolump may occur if there has been breast or enhancement surgery or if a rib has shifted. Treatment of pseudolumps is done after a mammogram and ultrasound have indicated the lump is harmless. If they are not clear, then a needle biopsy is done for tissue sampling. If the lump is irritating, it can be removed surgically.


Evaluating Breast Lumps to Determine if They Are Benign: Manual Examination

In order to evaluate breast lumps, the first step is a manual examination of the breast. This important screening method is a valuable tool in determining the nature of a lump in the breast. However, because it is manual - that is, done by man - it is not perfect. If a lump is felt, then it is important to determine its location in order for other diagnostic examination to focus on that particular area. The skin area is also examined by the doctor for any skin changes that may be suspicious or indicative of cancer.

Evaluating Breast Lumps: Mammogram

Women with a lump in their breast need to have a mammogram of both breasts. Overall, mammograms will catch 90 percent of breast cancers, which means that 10 percent is missed by mammography. This indicates the need for a biopsy and further studies to ensure cancer is not present. If calcium deposits appear on the mammogram, then additional screening is done.

Evaluating Breast Lumps: Ultrasound

Ultrasound is a useful tool in screening breast lumps. It can distinguish between a cyst (a benign cyst is filled with water) and a solid lump, which may or may not be malignant. Before anything, there has to be the determination as to whether the lump is a cyst or solid mass and ultrasound does that best. If the ultrasound does not give a clear indication as to whether the lump is a cyst or solid mass, then further testing is needed.

Evaluating Breast Lumps: MRI

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a special radiology technique that is designed to image internal structures using magnetism, radio waves, and a computer to produce the images of the body structures. It is particularly sensitive to small abnormalities in breast tissue. MRIs are able to determine whether a particular area is cancerous based on the density that results from increased blood supply. When ultrasound and mammography are inconclusive, an MRI is performed.

There are many different causes for breast lumps. Some are harmless, others are not. Learn more about breast lumps in the article in this section.

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