The Comprehensive Breast Program at Centegra is committed to providing the best possible care to those with diseases of the breast from benign breast lumps to advanced breast cancer.
Benign breast conditions
Noncancerous breast conditions are very common. Unlike breast cancers, benign breast conditions are not life-threatening, though some are linked with a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
- Mastitis: Usually caused by an infection, mastitis is inflammation of the breast. Women who are breastfeeding are most at risk for mastitis. A clogged milk duct or breaks in the skin of the nipple can lead to infection. The infected part of the breast may swell and become painful, red and warm to the touch. Fever, headache and other flu-like symptoms can accompany mastitis.
- Abscesses: An abscess is a collection of pus that has built up within the breast tissue. They are usually caused by a bacterial infection and are usually felt as a very painful, swollen lump inside the breast.
- Nipple discharge: Nipple discharge can occur spontaneously or be expressed by finger pressure. Spontaneous nipple discharge should be evaluated by a physician. Nipple discharge is normal during pregnancy or breastfeeding and also may be associated with menstrual changes and fibrocystic changes. Nipple discharge may look milky or it may be clear, yellow, green, brown or bloody. While it is rarely a sign of breast cancer, nipple discharge might be a sign of an underlying condition that requires treatment.
- Lumps: Nearly 80 percent of all breast lumps are not cancer. Benign breast lumps are usually moveable and smooth. Common causes of benign breast lumps include breast changes, infection or injury and medications that can cause lumps or breast pain, especially birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy. Soy products and caffeine also are linked to breast lumps and pain.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women after skin cancers with about 1 in 8 women developing breast cancer at some point in their lifetime.
Breast cancer symptoms
Early-stage breast cancer does not usually produce pain. Often there may not be any symptoms in the early phase, which is why annual screening mammograms are so important. However, as cancer grows, the following symptoms may appear:
- Changes, such as swelling, in the size or shape of the breast
- A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area
- Nipple discharge, tenderness or the nipple is pulled back or inverted into the breast
- A lump or swelling in the lymph nodes under the arm or around the collarbone
What to do
While any of these symptoms can be caused by something besides breast cancer, if you have any breast changes, talk to your physician right away.
Types of breast cancer
- Ductal carcinoma: In ductal carcinoma, cancer cells begin to grow in the milk ducts. About 1 in 5 new breast cancers are the non-invasive or pre-invasive ductal carcinoma in situ or DCIS, where the cancer has not spread into nearby breast tissue. In invasive (or infiltrating) ductal carcinoma, the cancer cells will break through the wall of the milk duct and grow into the fatty tissue of the breast. From there the cancer can spread to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system and bloodstream. Ductal carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer.
- Lobular carcinoma: In lobular carcinoma cancer, cells begin to grow in the milk-producing glands of the breast. Lobular carcinoma in situ or LCIS does not cause signs or symptoms and typically does not spread beyond those lobules. However, women with LCIS have a higher risk of developing invasive cancer. If the cancer cells start to spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body, it becomes invasive or infiltrating lobular carcinoma.
- Inflammatory breast cancer: This rare breast cancer has symptoms of inflammation such as swelling and redness caused by cancer cells blocking lymph vessels in the skin. Inflammatory breast cancer does not cause a breast lump and might not show up on mammogram. It is more common in black women and women who are overweight. Inflammatory breast cancer tends to be aggressive, growing and spreading more quickly than more common types of breast cancer.
- Paget’s disease of the nipple: This rare type of breast cancer involves the skin of the nipple. Paget disease can look similar to eczema or very dry skin of the nipple. Most people with Paget’s disease of the nipple also have a tumor in the same breast.
- Breast cancer associated with pregnancy: Breast cancer diagnosed during pregnancy, in the first year after a woman gives birth or any time during lactation is categorized as gestational or pregnancy-associated breast cancer. Breast cancer affects about 1 in 3,000 pregnant women and can be hard to detect because of the increased size and change in the texture of the breasts during pregnancy.
- Breast cancer in men: While breast cancer is 100 times more likely to affect women, the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000 for men. Breast cancer symptoms are the same for everyone. Men at any age may develop breast cancer, however it is usually found in men ages 60-70. Men who develop breast cancer at any age should undergo genetic counseling and testing for possession of a breast cancer predisposition gene.