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Fall 2017

Changes in a Woman’s Breast Composition Not Always a Sign of Cancer

May 27, 2019, 08:07 AM by Adam Ooten
Changes in a Woman’s Breast Composition Not Always a Sign of Cancer

Women who detect a change in their breast composition may naturally jump to the conclusion that it’s a sign of cancer, but a local surgeon says women need to know it could signal a less threatening condition.

The ever-increasing awareness of breast cancer has served a positive role in helping women understand the importance of regular screening as well as contacting their physician when they suspect a change in their breasts. But the American Cancer SocietyOff Site Icon (ACS) says that most breast changes are not cancer and that the majority of biopsied lumps in breasts are benign – or non-cancerous.

Seeking medical attention for any breast change is extremely important and, while it may not be cancerous, it could indicate one of several non-cancerous breast diseases. There is a long list of non-cancerous breast conditions, but the three most commonly seen conditions include cysts, fibroadenomas and hyperplasia of the breast, says Thomas Heck, MD, a breast surgeon with Gem City Surgical Breast Care Center.

“Most conditions are diagnosed based on a physical exam or picked up in imaging studies like a mammogram or ultrasound,” says Dr. Heck, who practices with Premier Health Specialists. “In some cases these conditions will require a biopsy to confirm there is no presence of cancer, and depending on those findings will determine if the non-cancerous condition places the woman at a higher risk of developing breast cancer at a later time.”

Three Common Non-Cancerous Breast Conditions

There are similarities and differences among the three most common non-cancerous breast conditions. Here’s how Dr. Heck explains it:

  • Cysts of the breast – Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that are almost always benign, but that often cause much discomfort or pain in a woman’s breast. Women who have cysts may complain of extreme pain simply by turning over in bed at night. Women can receive relief from the pain by having the cyst drained by a physician.
  • Fibroadenomas – Fibroadenomas are solid, benign tumors that most commonly appear in women 15 to 33 years of age. This condition rarely increases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer and does not need to be removed unless they grow to a size that affects a woman’s quality of life.
  • Hyperplasia – Hyperplasia is an overgrowth of cells in a woman’s breast tissue – most commonly inside the lobules or milk ducts.  There are two different types of hyperplasia, both of which can increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. A woman diagnosed with atypical hyperplasia increases her risk for breast cancer up to three to four times of the normal risk. 

Any woman can develop a non-cancerous breast condition, however, studies have found certain factors may increase or lower her risk. According to the Susan G. Komen FoundationOff Site Icon, menopausal hormone therapy and a family history of breast cancer or benign breast conditions may increase a woman’s risk for developing benign breast conditions. Likewise, ongoing research suggests lifestyle factors in a female’s teen years may lower risk. This includes a diet that contains carotenoids (such as melons, carrots, sweet potatoes and squash) nuts and beans.

Dr. Heck says one of his favorite things is being able to put a woman’s mind at ease about the recent changes in her breast tissue.

“Women come in because they felt a lump or something was found on an imaging test. Rightfully, they are concerned and we are concerned,” Dr. Heck says. “For a lot of patients, however, once we evaluate them and do a biopsy, we are able to tell them it is not cancer. It is such a wonderful thing to see them walk out of the office as one of the most relieved patients in the world.”

For more information on non-cancerous breast conditions or to find a Premier Physician Network healthcare provider near you, visit https://www.premierphysiciannet.com/Specialties/Breast-Care---Breast-Surgery/.