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Breast Diseases

Updated: Wednesday, May 19,2010, 3:19:00 PM
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Fat necrosis

Fat necrosis is the name given to painless, round, and firm lumps formed by damaged and disintegrating fatty tissues. This condition typically occurs in obese women with very large breasts, according to NIH. It often develops in response to trauma, such as a bruise or blow to the breast, even though the woman may not remember the specific injury. Sometimes the skin around the lumps looks red or bruised. Again, it is important that any women who notices a lump or change in her breast, sees her HCP.


Galactorrhea occurs when a woman's breast makes milk even though she is not breastfeeding a baby. The American Academy, this may occur when the breasts are touched, or it may start spontaneously. Men can have galactorrhea, too, but it is much less common. Causes can include hormonal imbalance, medications such as hormones, antidepressants, or blood pressure medicines , use of herbs "Herbal Precautions"), pregnancy, pituitary tumor, and a number of other causes. The condition can go away on its own. Again, however, it is essential that a woman, who notices changes or discharge, sees her HCP.

Hyperplasia/atypical hyperplasia

Recent studies show that certain very specific types of microscopic changes put a woman at higher risk of developing breast cancer, according to NCI. These changes feature excessive cell growth, or hyperplasia. hyperplasia can increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Approximately 5 percent of benign breast biopsies reveal both excessive cell growth, i.e. hyperplasia, plus cells that are abnormal (atypical). The location of these abnormal cells can be in the lobules (atypical lobular hyperplasia) or the milk ducts (atypical ductal hyperplasia). A diagnosis of atypical hyperplasia moderately increases breast cancer risk. If a biopsy finds hyperplasia, surgery can remove the abnormal cells, and also determine if in situ or invasive cancer is also present. Since atypical hyperplasia increases your risk of developing breast cancer, it is essential that you continue to monitor your breasts with regular mammograms and clinical breast exams. Depending on your other risk factors and family history  your doctor may also want to use magnetic resonance imaging for screening. Your doctor may also suggest preventive medications to inhibit the effect of estrogen on your breast tissue.


Fibroadenomas are solid and round benign tumors that are made up of both structural (fibro-) and glandular (-adenoma) tissues. Usually, these lumps are painless and found by the woman herself. They feel rubbery and can easily be moved around. Fibroadenomas are the most common type of tumors in women in their late teens and early twenties, they occur twice as often in African American women as in other American women.

Fibroadenomas have a typically benign appearance on mammography (smooth, round masses with a clearly defined edge), and they can sometimes be diagnosed with fine needle aspiration. Although fibroadenomas do not become malignant, they can enlarge with pregnancy and breastfeeding. Again, it is essential that a woman, who notices a lump or other change, sees her HCP.

Intraductal papilloma

One of the most common sources of a bloody or sticky discharge is an intraductal papilloma, a small, wart-like growth that projects into breast ducts near the nipple. Any slight bump or bruise in the area of the nipple can cause the papilloma to bleed. Single (solitary) intraductal papillomas usually affect women nearing menopause.

If the discharge becomes bothersome, according to NIH, the diseased duct can be removed surgically without damaging the appearance of the breast. Multiple intraductal papillomas, in contrast, are more common in younger women. They often occur in both breasts and are more likely to be associated with a lump than with nipple discharge. Multiple intraductal papillomas or any papillomas associated with a lump, need to be removed. Again, it is important that any woman, who notices a lump or change in her breast, sees her HCP.

Mammary duct ectasia

Mammary duct ectasia is a disease of women nearing menopause. Ducts beneath the nipple become inflamed and can become blocked. Mammary duct ectasia can become painful, and it can produce a thick and sticky discharge that is gray to green in color. A woman who notices pain or discharge should see her doctor. Treatment consists of warm compresses, antibiotics and (if necessary) surgery to remove the duct.


Mastitis (sometimes called "postpartum mastitis") is an infection most often seen in women who are breast-feeding. A duct may become blocked, allowing milk to pool, causing inflammation, and setting the stage for infection by bacteria. Bacteria can also enter via cracked nipples. The breast appears red and feels warm, tender and lumpy.

In its earlier stages, mastitis can be cured by antibiotics. If a pus-containing abscess forms, it will need to be drained or surgically removed. It is important that a woman who notices pain or changes sees her doctor immediately.

Sclerosing adenosis

Sclerosing adenosis is a benign condition involving the excessive growth of tissues in the breast's lobules. It frequently causes breast pain. Usually the changes are microscopic, but adenosis can produce lumps, and it can show up on a mammogram, often as calcifications. Short of biopsy, adenosis can be difficult to distinguish from cancer. surgical biopsy, which furnishes both diagnosis and treatment, is a common option. Again, it is important that any woman, who feels pain or notices a lump or change in her breast, sees her HCP.

Nipple discharge

Nipple discharge accompanies some breast conditions. Since the breast is a gland, secretions from the nipple of a mature woman are not necessarily a sign of disease. For example, that small amounts of discharge of a milky fluid called galactorrhea (see above) commonly occur in women taking hormonal or other medications, including sedatives and tranquilizers. Nipple discharge can also be a warning sign of benign disease or of breast cancer.  most nipple discharges or secretions are not cancer. Even so, it's important that a woman who notices discharge or unusual changes consult her doctor.

Nipple discharges come in a variety of colors and textures. A milky discharge can be traced to many causes, including thyroid malfunction or certain medications. A bloody discharge needs to be evaluated immediately. Women with generalized breast lumpiness may also experience nipple discharge.

doctors can take a sample of the discharge and send it to a laboratory to be analyzed. Benign discharges are treated chiefly by keeping the nipple clean. A discharge caused by infection may require antibiotics.

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