What are some common types of benign breast lumps?
Two of the most common causes of benign single breast lumps are cysts and fibroadenomas. Several other conditions can present themselves as lumps, so it is important that you see your doctor for a professional diagnosis.
What is a cyst?
A cyst is a fluid-filled sac that develops in the breast tissue. They often enlarge and become tender and painful just before the menstrual period and may seem to appear overnight. Cysts are rarely malignant (cancerous) and may be caused by a blockage of breast glands. Cysts can feel either soft or hard. When close to the surface of the breast, cysts can feel like a large blister: smooth on the outside, but fluid-filled on the inside. However, when they are deeply embedded in breast tissue, cysts will feel like hard lumps because they are covered with tissue.
Your doctor may identify a lump as a cyst by physical examination, but many doctors confirm the diagnosis by mammography or ultrasound examination. Your health care provider may then perform a fine-needle aspiration as the next step in diagnosing the cyst, which involves guiding a very fine needle into the cyst and drawing fluid from it. This procedure also serves as the treatment for this condition, as once the cyst is aspirated, it collapses and disappears. Cysts can reappear at a later date, in which case they are simply drained again. Cysts are seldom malignant.
What is fibroadenoma?
Fibroadenomas are solid, smooth, firm, benign lumps that are most commonly found in women in their 20s and 30s. Fibroadenomas vary in size and can grow anywhere in the breast tissue.
While most health care providers can recognize this type of lump simply by feeling it, the diagnosis is usually confirmed by mammography or ultrasound and fine-needle aspiration, or core needle biopsy. Sometimes, in young women, the fibroadenoma is not removed. However, because sometimes these tumors enlarge with pregnancy and breastfeeding, doctors may recommend surgically removing the fibroadenoma. While fibroadenoma does not lead to cancer, there is a type of fibroadenoma that has been associated with an increased risk of cancer, particularly in women with a family history of the disease.