Breast Lumps and Cysts

Breast Lumps and Cysts

My breasts often feel lumpy. Is this normal?

Yes. Most women have lumpy breasts. It's just some are more aware of it then others.

The lumps are usually areas of normal breast tissue that become more noticeable and easier to feel just before a period.

Lumpy breasts do not mean you have breast cancer. At least 80% of breast lumps are benign. However if you notice a new, separate lump which wasn't there before, visit your doctor immediately to have it checked.

Lumpy breasts are sometimes referred to as fibrocystic disease.

What is fibrocystic disease?

Despite its name, fibrocystic disease (lumpy breasts) is not strictly speaking a disease and is a harmless condition.

Some of the lumps in the breast are solid, while some are fluid-filled. It is not fully known what causes them but the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which are the hormones involved in the menstrual cycle, can make the lumps more prominent in the week leading up to a period.

If you have fibrocystic disease, check yourself regularly to see if any new and separate lumps have appeared. If you notice any distinct new lumps, consult your doctor immediately.

Fibrocystic disease is also known as fibrocystic breast changes, benign breast disease, mammary dysplasia or chronic mastitis.

What is a fibroadenoma?

This is a type of lump which accounts for the majority of lumps found in women under the age of 25.

A A fibroadenomas generally cause no pain and is usually round, firm, rubbery and mobile. It is sometimes referred to as a "breast mouse" because of this mobility.

Once confirmed, fibroadenomas don't usually require medical treatment, although in some cases they may be biopsied or removed. Around one-third of these lumps get smaller or disappear without treatment within a few months or years.

What is fat necrosis?

Sometimes a lump develops after surgery, an injury or radiation treatment. This may be caused by fat necrosis, which is scar tissue found on an area of fatty tissue that has been damaged.

These lumps tend to be quite firm.

What is a lipoma?

A lipoma is a lump that develops when a pocket of fat becomes enveloped in scar tissue.

This type of lump is usually soft and spread out.

Lipomas are fairly common and are benign and usually painless.

What is a cyst?

Lobules are areas inside the breast. They produce milk which is drained along a network of small ducts. This in turn is drained into 10 to 15 major ducts and these empty onto the surface of the nipple.

Cysts are swollen, fluid-filled lobules. They mostly affect women in their 30s, 40s and 50s and are particularly common in the years leading up to the menopause.

Some cysts are so large, they are clearly visible. These can be uncomfortable or painful. Others are small, smooth, moveable lumps.

How is a cyst treated?

A small cyst may require no treatment. Larger or recurrent cysts may be drained. The doctor inserts a fine needle into the cyst and extracts the fluid. The fluid may be yellow, green, blue or black in colour.

If the fluid is bloodstained, it will be sent for tests to find the cause.

When the fluid is extracted, the lump usually disappears.

Having breast cysts does not increase the risk of developing breast cancer. 

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