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Need To Know: Breast Health

By DMG Integrated Oncology Program

Normal breast tissue is present in both males and females of all ages. This tissue responds to hormonal changes and, therefore, certain lumps can come and go.

Breast lumps may appear at all ages:

  • Infants may have breast lumps related to estrogen from the mother. The lump generally goes away on its own as the estrogen clears from the baby's body. It can happen to boys and girls.
  • Young girls often develop "breast buds" that appear just before the beginning of puberty. These bumps may be tender. They are common around age 9, but may happen as early as age 6.
  • Teenage boys may develop breast enlargement and lumps because of hormonal changes in mid-puberty. Although this may distress the teen, the lumps or enlargement generally go away on their own over a period of months.
  • Breast lumps in an adult woman raise concern for breast cancer, even though most lumps turn out to be not cancerous.

Lumps in a woman are often caused by fibrocystic changes, fibroadenomas, and cysts.

Fibrocystic changes can occur in either or both breasts. These changes are common in women (especially during the reproductive years), and are considered a normal variation of breast tissue. Having fibrocystic breasts does not increase your risk for breast cancer. It does, however, make it more difficult to interpret lumps that you or your doctor find on exam. Many women feel tenderness in addition to the lumps and bumps associated with fibrocystic breasts.

Fibroadenomas are noncancerous lumps that feel rubbery and are easily moveable within the breast tissue. Like fibrocystic changes, they occur most often during the reproductive years. Usually, they are not tender and, except in rare cases, do not become cancerous later. A doctor may feel fairly certain from an exam that a particular lump is a fibroadenoma. The only way to be sure, however, is to remove or biopsy it.

Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that often feel like soft grapes. These can sometimes be tender, especially just before your menstrual period. Cysts may be drained in the doctor's office. If the fluid removed is clear or greenish, and the lump disappears completely after it is drained, no further treatment is needed. If the fluid is bloody, it is sent to the lab to look for cancer cells. If the lump doesn't disappear, or recurs, it is usually removed surgically.

Watch as Dr. Hamby, surgeon with DuPage Medical Group and part of the Integrated Oncology Program talks about breast cysts.

Watch as Dr. Chin, oncologist with DuPage Medical Group and part of the Integrated Oncology Program and High Risk Breast Clinic, talks about what you should do when you find a lump during your self-breast exam.

If you find a lump in your breast during a self-breast exam, no matter your age, be sure to talk to your primary care physician to see if you need to get a mammogram. It is never too early to detect cancer and be proactive about your health.

 


Topics and Subtopics: Cancer & Women's Health

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