5 Common Breast Conditions That Aren't Cancer

If you hear the dreaded news that you have a breast abnormality, it’s hard to stop yourself from jumping to conclusion that it’s cancer. After all, what else could it be?

Well, chances are, your abnormality is actually the result of a common benign breast condition. And you aren’t alone. In fact, experts believe that most women will experience a non-cancerous breast condition at some point. While these conditions aren’t life-threatening on their own, some of them can increase your risk of breast cancer over time.

So, just because they aren’t dangerous conditions doesn’t mean that you don’t need to worry about them. Unfortunately, because many of these conditions share the same symptoms, or may not show any symptoms at all, it’s essential to have the help of a specialist to detect it and treat it.

Here are several deceiving conditions that your mammogram may detect:

1.    Hyperplasia

Hyperplasia is a condition in which there is an overgrowth of cells in the ducts or lobules of the breast. This overgrowth is commonly referred to as proliferation. There are two types of hyperplasia – typical and atypical. While both increase your chances of breast cancer, people with atypical hyperplasia have a greater risk. While hyperplasia doesn’t typically cause lumps, it can show up on a mammogram and must be diagnosed through a biopsy.

2.    Cysts

Cysts are sacs filled with fluid and are quite common, particularly in premenopausal women. They are almost always benign and do not increase the chance of breast cancer. While most are too small to feel, larger cysts can feel like lumps in a self-exam. Cysts can often be diagnosed through a simple ultrasound, but some may need to be biopsied to determine whether they are cancerous or not.  

3.    Intraductal Papillomas

Intraductal papillomas are small tumors that grow within the milk duct and can cause clear or bloody discharge from the nipple. They often resemble warts and can be felt as a small lump that sometimes causes pain. They can be removed with surgery and only increase chances for breast cancer if there are abnormal cells or further complications.

4.    Sclerosing Adenosis

Sclerosing adensosis is a condition where the lobules are enlarged, often resulting in several lumps in the breast. Because of the abnormal shape, it is often mistaken as breast cancer during mammograms. A biopsy may be needed to determine if it is cancerous. There is no treatment needed for sclerosing adenosis, and it is not thought to increase chances of developing breast cancer.

5.    Mastitis

Mastitis is the condition that results from breast inflammation typically caused by infection. It most commonly affects women who are breastfeeding but this is not always the case. Mastitis causes swelling, increased blood flow, redness and can be painful. It can be easily diagnosed during a basic breast exam. Inflammatory breast cancer can be mistaken as mastitis, so if conditions do not improve after a week of antibiotics, further testing may be needed to determine it is in fact cancer.  

So how do you know the difference?

As you can see, there are many breast conditions that may not necessarily be cancer – and they all share many of the same symptoms. It’s best to talk to an expert if you experience anything out of the ordinary during a routine self-examination. Gwinnett Medical Group Primary Care can work with you to stay on top of your health through all phases of care. For additional breast services, the extensive Gwinnett Breast Program is designed to guide and care for patients and their families throughout the process of screening, diagnosis, treatment and recovery from breast cancer and other breast conditions.


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