Using a collaborative approach, the MedStar Breast Health Program’s talented team develops treatment plans for both cancerous and non-cancerous, or benign, conditions. Each plan is based on your unique diagnosis, overall condition and personal preferences. Benign conditions include:
Breast pain is very common and experienced by 70 percent of women at some time in their life. Breast pain is rarely the sole sign of breast cancer — you can experience breast pain for a variety of reasons unrelated to breast cancer, including:
- Hormonal changes such as menstruation, menopause, pregnancy, and puberty
- Breasts become full with milk following childbirth
- Breast infection
- Trauma or injury to the breast or underlying chest area
- Large breast size
- Fibrocystic breast changes
- Stress In addition, certain medications, including those that contain hormones as well as some antidepressants, can cause breast pain.
If breast pain lasts more than two weeks
Breast pain is not commonly a breast cancer symptom, but it is something you should take seriously. If your breast pain lasts for two weeks or more and is not related to the timing of your menstrual cycle, or becomes increasingly worse, contact your health care provider.
Diagnosis of Breast Pain
One of our breast care experts will perform a clinical breast exam to check your breasts. Your doctor may also use a digital mammogram and/or breast ultrasound to better understand the appearance of the inside of your breast.
Depending on the findings of the above tests, your doctor will discuss different treatment options with you.
If bacteria grow in your breast tissue, you can develop a breast infection, also called mastitis. Bacteria commonly found on the skin can enter your breast through cracks in your skin or nipple, or through natural openings on the nipple. This can cause an infection.
While most breast infections affect breastfeeding women, they can occur in any age group.
Symptoms of Breast Infections
Symptoms of breast infections include:
- Red, swollen, or hot breast tissue
- Swollen or painful lymph nodes under the arm
- One breast becomes larger than the other
- Flu-like symptoms including fever, nausea, or vomiting Itching or pain in your breast
- Painful lump in the breast
If you are nursing, your doctor will likely recommend treating your infection with moist heat and antibiotics. You should continue to nurse and/or pump milk even while treating your breast infection.
If you are not pregnant, your doctor will likely search for the cause of your infection with a digital mammogram and/or minimally invasive breast biopsy, and antibiotics may be prescribed.
Fibroadenomas are the most common breast lumps found in women younger than 30 years old. They feel firm and mobile, but typically do not cause pain. Fibroadenomas are not cancerous.
Diagnosis of Fibroadenomas
One of our breast care experts will perform a clinical breast exam to manually check your breasts for fibroadenomas. To confirm a diagnosis, your doctor may also use a digital mammogram and breast ultrasound to better understand the appearance of the inside of your breast, or a minimally invasive breast biopsy to examine some tissue from your breast under a microscope.
If your fibroadenoma continues to grow or is of a certain size, your doctor may recommend removing it to make sure it is does not contain abnormal cells. Although fibroadenomas do not typically become breast cancer, they can occasionally degenerate into a different type of tumor.
If the fibroadenoma starts to grow rapidly or the biopsy is suggestive of a phyllodes tumor, then we will recommend removing it completely.
The term fibrocystic breast changes describes breast tissue that is very dense and/or lumpy. This is a very common, non-cancerous condition, occurring most commonly in women in their 40s.
Fibrocystic changes can make breast self-exams challenging. It is important to develop a sense of what is normal for your breasts and to let a doctor know about any changes.
If you have fibrocystic changes, you may experience:
- Pain and sensitivity in your breasts and underarm area
- A feeling of fullness in your breasts
- Nipple discharge that may appear yellow, green or brown
- Lumpy areas
- A cyclic change in your symptoms related to your menstrual period
One our breast care experts will perform a clinical breast exam to check your breasts for fibrocystic breast changes. To confirm a diagnosis, and monitor any changes, your doctor may also use a digital mammogram and/or breast ultrasound to better understand the appearance of the inside of your breast.
Fortunately, for most women, their breast density and fibrocystic changes decrease after menopause.
A papilloma is a small, non-cancerous tumor that develops within your breast duct, a microscopic tubular structure that brings milk to the nipple while you are breastfeeding. This condition affects women between the ages of 35 and 55 typically.
Papillomas often cause liquid to leak from your nipples.
Diagnosis of Papilloma
Your doctor can perform a clinical breast exam to check for nipple discharge, but papillomas are usually too small to feel or be seen on a digital mammogram. They can sometimes be seen on ultrasound.
To confirm a diagnosis, your doctor may perform one of the following tests:
- Biopsy: In a biopsy, your doctor removes a sample of your affected tissue to examine under a microscope. A minimally invasive needle biopsy is the best way to obtain tissue for diagnosis.
- Ductogram: In a ductogram, your doctor injects special dye into your milk duct and then takes an X-ray to examine the affected area. This technique is used less often as breast imaging becomes more advanced.
Generally, our breast surgeons treat papillomas by surgically removing the affected duct.