You’ve found a lump in your breast. It’s scary – terrifying, really. Or maybe you’ve been called in after a routine mammogram revealed something unusual. Either way, you’re suddenly very aware that you could become one of the 20,000 Australians diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
There are many more types of breast disease than most people realise. Many are not cancerous. And the cancerous ones vary widely too. Let’s take a look.
Benign breast diseases
Both women and men can develop benign (non-cancerous) breast lumps, often caused by fluctuating hormone levels. Here are some of the key types:
- Fibroadenomas – a solid, non-cancerous breast tumour, commonly found in women aged 15-35
- Breast cysts – tender, lumpy, fluid-filled cysts
- Fibrocystic breast changes – breasts that become lumpy, dense and tender, especially just before your period
- Hyperplasia – an overgrowth of cells lining the mammary ducts or glands
- Intraductal papilloma – small growths inside your breast near your nipple, which may cause nipple discharge
- Mammary duct ectasia – occurs in menopausal or postmenopausal women when the milk ducts become thickened and swollen
- Traumatic fat necrosis – breast lumps due to scar tissue that’s formed after injury, surgery or radiotherapy.
Some types of benign breast disease resolve on their own without treatment. Most types of benign breast disease don’t increase your risk of developing breast cancer later in life. They should be investigated, though, to rule out anything more concerning.
We tend to be more careful with hyperplasia and intraductal papilloma. If a biopsy shows you have Hyperplasia or a papillary lesions, we usually recommend surgery to remove the affected breast tissue. That’s because doing nothing can increase your risk of developing breast cancer later on.
Learn more about surgery for benign breast disease here.
Malignant breast diseases
Malignant (cancerous) breast diseases are, of course, the ones that cause the most concern. It means there are harmful, cancerous abnormalities or growths in the breast tissue, which may begin to mutate and spread throughout otherwise healthy tissues.
Key types of breast cancer are:
- Invasive ductal carcinoma – this is the most common type of breast cancer. It begins in the cells that line the inside of your milk ducts but then spreads to the surrounding breast tissue or other areas of your body
- Invasive lobular carcinoma – this begins in the milk-producing glands (lobules) of your breast then spreads
- Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) – cancer cells fill the ducts but have not (yet) spread beyond there.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Australian women, thought to affect 1 in 7 women. The diagnosis understandably triggers a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty and medicalises your life for a while.
Clinical treatment for breast cancer can involve several different therapies, including surgery.
Learn more about breast cancer surgery here.
How can Gault Surgery help?
Whether breast disease is benign or malignant, early detection is crucial for the best outcome.
If you notice any changes in your breasts, such as lumps, swelling, pain or skin changes, please see your GP promptly. If you’re invited for a breast screening mammogram, please make the time to go.
Regular self-exams and mammograms can help catch any changes in the breasts and prompt medical attention can lead to timely treatment, which may include surgery to remove affected breast tissue and/or reconstruct your breast.
At Gault Surgery, our aim is to empower and support you throughout your journey, helping you to understand your capabilities, your prognosis, and your options. We give you the security that comes with knowing that there is an entire team of professionals behind you – and that your care will continue beyond surgery.
Contact us today.
All information is general and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Gault Surgery can consult with you to confirm if a particular treatment is right for you.