When most women think of breast disease, they think of breast cancer. But there are many other diseases and conditions they need to be aware of. Each breast has 15 to 20 sections, called lobes, each with many smaller lobules. The lobules end in dozens of tiny bulbs that can produce milk. Lobes, lobules, and bulbs are all linked by thin tubes called ducts. These ducts lead to the nipple, which is centered in a dark area of breast skin called the areola. The areola also has oil-producing glands that secrete a lubricant to make breastfeeding easier. The spaces between the lobules and ducts are filled with fat. There are no muscles in the breast, but muscles lie under each breast and cover the ribs.
These normal features can sometimes make the breasts feel lumpy. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) says this is especially true in thin women or small breasts. A woman’s breasts also change each month with her menstrual cycle. The breasts also change as a woman gets older. Common breast changes fall into several broad categories. These include generalized breast changes, solitary lumps, nipple discharge, and infection and/or inflammation.
Keep reading for more information on some diseases and conditions affecting breasts.
Benign breast disease is known by several names, including:● Lumpiness or generalized breast lumpines.
● Fibrocystic changes or fibrocystic disease.
● Mammary dysplasia.
Breast lumpiness, which is sometimes described as “ropy” or “granular,” can often be felt in the area around the nipple and areola and the upper-outer part of the breast. Such lumpiness may become more evident as a woman approaches middle age, and the milk-producing glandular tissue of her breasts increasingly gives way to soft, fatty tissue. Unless she is taking replacement hormones, this type of lumpiness generally disappears for good after menopause.
There are times when this condition becomes more noticeable. For example, during the menstrual cycle, many women experience swelling, tenderness, and pain before and sometimes during their periods. At the same time, one or more lumps or a feeling of increased lumpiness may develop because of extra fluid collecting in the breast tissue. Pregnancy also can bring changes. During pregnancy, the milk-producing glands become swollen, and the breasts may feel lumpier than usual. If you have any questions about how your breasts feel or look, talk to your healthcare provider (HCP).
NCI says that the majority of breast lumps are benign, which means they are not cancerous. Even so, it is essential that any woman, who notices a lump or change in her breast, see her HCP. Although benign lumps rarely, if ever, turn into cancer, according to NCI, cancerous lumps can develop near benign lumps and can be hidden on a mammogram. Even if you have had a benign lump removed in the past, you cannot be sure any new lump is also benign.
Breast cancer is a malignant or potentially life-threatening tumor. We’ve all seen the awareness efforts robed in pink, but some aren’t aware of the treatments available, including breast cancer surgery.
Breast cancer will, more often than not, require surgery to remove the tumor from the breast. For breast cancer in stage I or II, a lumpectomy or quadrantectomy, in conjunction with radiation therapy, is just as effective as a mastectomy. Lumpectomies and quadrantectomies are breast cancer surgeries generally classified as breast-conserving surgeries because they do not require the surgeon to remove all of the breast tissue.
A lumpectomy removes only the tumor and marginal amounts of surrounding tissue. The amount of the breast removed during a lumpectomy will vary from case to case, depending on the size of the tumor. Lumpectomies are typically followed by radiation therapy to ensure that any remaining cancer cells are destroyed. A lumpectomy may also be performed for any kind of abnormal, noncancerous, or precancerous lumps. You may not be a candidate for a lumpectomy if you have multiple tumors in different quadrants of your breast, if you have scleroderma, or if you have a large tumor and small breast, which could result in an unsatisfactory cosmetic appearance.