What is Benign Breast Disease?

Benign breast conditions are breast changes that are not cancerous but are very common and can be found in most women. In fact, most breast changes that are biopsied turn out to be benign. Unlike breast cancer, benign breast diseases are not life threatening although some benign breast diseases put you at a higher risk of developing breast cancer in the future. 




Cysts are fluid filled, round or oval shape sacs within the breast. These lumps are non-cancerous. Women in their 30's, 40's and early 50's usually get cysts. However, women approaching menopause are most likely to develop these types of lumps. Cysts feel like hard bumps and can be very painful. A clinical examination is hard to determine between a cyst and a mass, so an ultrasound or a fine needle aspiration is needed to confirm diagnosis. At the same time, the fine needle aspiration will drain the cysts fluid. If there are any suspicions about the lump, the fluid which was drained will be tested in the lab but this rarely would happen. 




Fibroadenomas are benign tumors. They are most common in women in their 20's and 30's, but they may be found at any age. These non-cancerous tumors tend to be movable and round and often feel like a marble within the breast. Fibroadenmoas are diagnosed by fine needle aspiration or a core needle biopsy and can range in size from too small to feel but can be seen under microscope, or it can grow to a size of a lemon. Most fibroadenomas do not increase the risk of developing breast cancer but some fibroadenomas contain other components which could slightly increased risk of breast cancer. Most doctors recommend removing fibroadenomas, especially if it keeps growing or if they change the shape of the breast. This procedure is quite simple, it is done under local anesthesia and there is minimal scaring. 


Fibrocystic Breast Condition


Fibrocystic Breast is defined as lumpy breast and usually has discomfort in one or both breast. This condition is very common and is non-cancerous. This condition affects women between the ages of 30 and 50 and tends to become less of a problem after menopause. The diagnosis of fibrocystic breast is complicated as the conditions can vary widely. A clinical examination can determine lumps although the characteristics of the lumps all vary from one person to another. Breast that are extremely fibrocystic are very difficult to examine by touch, and at time even a mammography could be difficult to determine so in these cases, a breast ultrasound will be performed. At times a biopsy will be performed.  To reduce pain in the breast, it is recommended to reduce or cut out caffeine from your diet.


Phyllodes Tumors


Phollodes tumors are rare breast tumors and have comparable classifications like fibroademonas. These tumors are usually benign but in a rare case may be cancerous. Phyllodes tumors are usually felt and are painless, but some may be painful and can grow quickly and stretch the skin.  It is recommended to surgically remove these tumors and since these tumors have a high risk of growing back, normal breast tissues surrounding the tumor will also be removed.   Close follow-up with frequent breast exams and imaging studies are recommended after treatment.  


Atypical Ductal Hyperplasia (ADH)


Atypical ductal hyperplasia is not cancerous but it is a good indicator that cancer may develop. Atypical ductal hyperplasia is pre-cancerous cells growing in the duct of the breast. There are no symptoms or signs associated with atypical ductal hyperplasia and this condition is usually diagnosed with mammography. Surgical intervention is advised due to the increased risk of ADH becoming cancer. Patients will be closely monitored and for those who are at a high risk might be prescribed tamoxfen. 


Atypical Ductal Dysplasia (ALD)


This condition is not cancerous but is means that cancer has a high likelihood of developing. Atypical lobular dysplasia (ALD) is a marker of breast cancer. It is similar to LCIS because it indicates that breast cancer may develop in either breast. This condition doesn't have any signs or symptoms. Mammography will help diagnose atypical lobular dysplasia. ALD does not need to be surgically removed in its entirety because it may not become cancer. It's important to monitor this condition with additional testing and more frequent mammography. Tamoxifen can also be prescribed to very high-risk patient to help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.  




A pappiloma are benign tumors that grow inside the breast tissue. They are wart-like growths of gland tissue along with fibrous tissue and blood vessels. Single tumors often grow in the large milk duct near the nipple and are a common cause of clear or bloody nipple discharge. They may be felt as a small lump behind or next to the nipple. They do not raise your risk of breast cancer. Papillomas may also be found in the small ducts in areas of the breast further from the nipple. In these cases, there are often several growths. These tumors are less likely to cause nipple discharge and unlike single papillomas, multiple papillomas are linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. 




Mastitis is a breast infection that most often affects women who are breast feeding, but it could happen to any women. A break in the skin or an opening in the nipple can allow bacteria to enter the breast duct. This is a non cancerous condition that causes breast pain, redness, warmth and swelling.  Some women will also experience flu-like symptoms.  Mastitis is treated with antibiotics. In some cases, a breast abscess may form and can be treated by draining the pus, either by surgery or by using a needle, and then giving antibiotics. 


Radical Scars


A radical scar is microscopic abnormality that is difficult to distinguish from breast cancer. It's a rare benign lesion where glands get caught in the fibrous tissue. This star shaped mass can be found on X-Ray and Mammograms. Often a stereotactic biopsy will be done on this abnormality because it looks similar to cancer.  It is recommended to surgical remove radical scars because it may hide a cancer and it has a slight chance of becoming cancer


Sclerosing Adenosis


Is the thickening and hardening of the lobes in the breast. The lobes are part of the milk producing system in the breast. Each lobe contains several lobules and those hold bulbs that produce milk. When the breast has too many of those bulbs, its called adenosis, this is not cancerous.  If you have a lot of these bulbs, you might be able to feel them. But most of the time you can not feel them on self exams or clinical exams. A mammography or ultrasound will help diagnosis this condition but a biopsy is the only clear cut way to be sure that you have Sclerosing Adenosis. You probably wont need to have any treatment for your this condition because it is non cancerous. Complex sclerosing adenosis lesions have a potential risk of cancer and are removed. 


Gynecomastia is an enlargement in men's breast. Gynecomastia isn't dangerous and men can live normal lives with the condition. This can develop at any time in a man's life but most often happens during hormonal changes, such as puberty and andropause. Certain medications, marijuana and excess alcohol can also cause gynecomastia. This isn't a harmful condition so we tend to just monitor it carefully. If it is the result of medications or recreational products, removing the stimulus can be all it takes to resolve the gynecomastia. Often, it is a self-limiting problem and will get better on its own. But some men are embarrassed by gynecomastia and choose to have it surgically removed. I suggest waiting at least a year before deciding on surgery.