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Benign breast lumps are common among women but they can affect all genders. Some benign breast conditions like breast cysts and fibrocystic breast changes don’t increase the risk of breast cancer. However, other benign breast tumors, such as ductal or lobular hyperplasia, may slightly increase your risk of getting this life-threatening condition.
Causes of Non-cancerous Breast Tumors
A lump is something you don’t want to feel, and the thought that you might have breast cancer can be frightening. Fortunately, most breast lumps are non-cancerous. Here are the most common causes.
Breast Tissue Changes
Breast tissue changes are common among women who are in the premenopausal stage. Also referred to as fibrocystic changes, they involve the thickening of the tissue or the development of fluid-filled cysts in the breast. They may appear as firm or rubbery lumps in one or both breasts, along with some level of tenderness and nipple discharge.
Breast cysts are non-cancerous tumors that may feel soft or hard, oval or round, movable, and tender, and can be in one or both breasts. They develop when empty milk glands in the breasts are filled with fluid. They vary in size and may form clusters in one or both of your breasts.
Women who are between 35 and 50 years of age and are either premenopausal or postmenopausal and taking hormone therapy are at an increased risk of developing breast cysts.
Your breasts go through changes when you are pregnant and when you breastfeed. There are instances when pregnant women notice hard, reddish, and tender lumps on one or both of their breasts. This is due to clogged milk ducts. Although most breast lumps during pregnancy are benign, you still need to inform your doctor right away.
Middle-aged women may feel a small, soft, movable, and sometimes painful lump on their breasts when performing a self-exam. Lipomas are lumps of fat that may grow in your breasts, and in the soft tissues in different parts of your body. Genetics, injury, and having a rare condition called Madelung’s disease may predispose you to develop lipomas.
Injury or Trauma to The Breast
Injury to the breast may also cause lumps. If you have a blow to the breast, use breast pumps, undergo surgery, or wear tight clothing, these can all increase your risk of developing lumps.
They may feel tender, coupled with bruising and hematoma. A lump that is caused by breast trauma is highly unlikely to develop into breast cancer.
Infection of the Breast
Breast infection is another cause of non-cancerous breast tumors and it’s common among women who are breastfeeding. It happens when Staphylococcus aureus enters the nipple or through a break in the skin. The bacteria invade the fatty tissues of the breast, which leads to swelling. The inflamed fatty tissue causes tenderness and lumps in the affected breast.
Radiation therapy and surgery may lead to the formation of scar tissue. They develop when breast tissue is removed, such as during a biopsy. Scar tissue may develop into lumps in your breast and may be painful if they form around nerves.
Changes in your hormone levels may also cause breast lumps. Hormone fluctuations happen before and during your menstrual period, as well as when you approach menopause. During these periods, you may notice lumps on your breasts, but they eventually disappear.
Benign breast tumors are a possible side effect of using birth control pills. Aside from developing lumps, you may feel tenderness in your breasts and notice nipple discharge.
Research also shows that women taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have higher risks of developing non-cancerous breast tumors than those who don’t. HRT is commonly used by women in their 50s and 60s to get some relief from menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes. Just like birth control pills, they also have some side effects, including developing benign cysts and fibroadenomas.
In summary, even though most breast tumors are no cause for alarm, it’s still best to see your doctor and have them checked as soon as you notice them. That’s the only way to confirm whether they’re benign or potentially serious. Some breast lumps don’t need treatment, but in case they do, your doctor will create the best treatment plan that’s suitable for your condition.