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Learn to take care of your breasts: educational series
Capsule 2: non-cancerous conditions of the breast
In our previous capsule we talked about breast cancer in general and the importance of early detection. This time we will talk about something much more common, the benign conditions of the breast.
Cancer is an abnormal growth of a group of cells that suddenly lose their growth pattern. In this way they can begin to grow inordinately and form a “little ball” or “little bag” in your breast, which we call a “tumor”. Not all tumors however are cancerous. There are tumors we call benign, which means those cells are growing further, but they can't cause local or remote damage. At different ages these masts are usually due to different types of benign tumors.
In adolescence and early adulthood, it is common to notice a growth in the breast that is usually not associated with pain or causes skin changes. The most common cause is a benign tumor called fibroadenoma. In most cases, they do not require surgery or biopsy. Breast cysts, an accumulation of encapsulated fluid, are also common. When they are classified as simple cysts they also do not need greater treatment. However, if they are complex cysts, you should receive a deeper evaluation because some of them need biopsy. As we enter the age where you should receive routine CERN mammograms, we begin to see other conditions. Your mammogram may reveal that you have calcium deposits called micro calcifications. In general these are calcium accumulations in the areas of the milk ducts and are generally benign. There are, however, calcifications called “pleomorphic” which may raise suspicion of a small cancer and need to be evaluated by a specialist.
The most common cause a patient will seek evaluation from my office is not a mass, but breast pain. This is a very common affliction that causes a lot of discomfort in women. Mastodinia or breast pain has multiple causes. It may be due to inflammatory breast processes or hormonal changes that are normal at different ages. Some women suffer from this problem throughout their reproductive age and once they reach menopause they are relieved or disappear. The most common recommendations for improving this condition are to wear a bra or bra appropriate to your breast size and shape, use some minor anti-inflammatory, apply warm compresses, and quit smoking. The use of some natural products derived from papaya or pineapple can also be effective.
In other future capsules we will discuss other topics such as the relationship of breast cancer and Nutrition, non-cancerous breast conditions, breast care during pregnancy and lactation, tips for maintaining breast beauty and Reconstructive and aesthetic surgeries of the breast. See you soon!
Bolivar Arboleda-Osorio, MD, FACS
Director, HIMA-San Pablo Breast Institute: Caguas