A breast lesion is an abnormality in the breast tissue that usually manifests itself as a lump or swelling. Breast lesions are typically found through self exams, exams by physicians or through mammograms.
Breasts are made up of fibrous tissue, fat and milk producing glands. Breasts may change over time due to different levels of hormones in the body caused by menstruation, pregnancy, breast feeding and menopause. Birth control and hormone treatments may also cause changes in the structure of the breast.
Symptoms of Breast Lesions
Breast lesions can vary and may change when a woman is pregnant, menstruating or experiencing menopause. Symptoms of breast lesions may include:
- Breast lumps
- Breast pain or tenderness
- Breast lumps that change in size
- Nipple discharge
Although usually benign, a physician should always be consulted if a lesion is detected.
Causes of Breast Lesions
All causes of breast lesions are not known, however some causes may include:
Diagnosis of Breast Lesions
To diagnose breast lesions, a doctor will perform a physical breast examination and review all related symptoms. Other diagnostic tests may include:
Benign Breast Lesions
Breast lesions are most often benign and may be categorized as the following:
Cysts are fluid-filled spaces in the breast. They may occur alone or in clusters in one or both breasts, and may be tiny and unnoticeable or large and painful to the touch. Benign cysts form in the glands and occasionally connective tissue in the breast. They are quite common, occurring in about half of all women, most frequently in the premenopausal years.
Some benign cysts shrink or stop growing on their own. For cysts that continue to grow and may cause problems, treatment is typically drainage by a doctor performing fine needle aspiration. Recurring cysts may be re-aspirated or removed.
Fibroadenomas are lumps in the breast made of glandular and stromal, or connective tissue. They can occur at any age, but are most common in women between the ages of 20 and 40 years old. Fibroadenomas vary in size from microscopic to several inches across but rarely cause pain or tenderness.
Removal may not be necessary for fibroadenomas that stop growing or shrink on their own. However, typical treatment for fibroadenoma is a surgical removal process called a lumpectomy.
Benign Phyllodes Tumors
Phyllodes tumors are lumps in the breast made of glandular and connective tissue. The main characteristic of phyllodes tumors is an overgrowth of connective tissue. The tumor can often be felt upon breast examination and may or may not be painful. Phyllodes tumors are usually benign but occasionally may be identified as potentially malignant. They can appear at any age but are most commonly found in women in their 30s or 40s.
Benign Phyllodes Tumor Treatment
Benign phyllodes tumors are usually surgically removed along with about one inch of the surrounding tissue in order to help prevent recurrence.
Cancerous Breast Lesions
Signs that breast lesions may be cancerous may include the presence of lumps in the breast, nipple discharge or changes to the skin around the breast. Risk factors for cancerous breast lesions may include:
- Family history of breast cancer
- Hormone therapy
- Aging - Being over the age of 55
If cancer is detected in a breast lesion, a doctor will create a customized cancer treatment plan based on individual patient's needs. Early diagnosis and advances in breast cancer treatment have made for many positive outcomes.