Breast diseases that are not cancer

When we think of breast health concerns, it’s usually breast cancer that tops the list. This is not surprising since breast cancer is a disease that caused 6,85,000 deaths worldwide in 2020, according to the World Health Organization. But you should know that there are several other breast diseases and conditions that can affect this vital part of a woman’s body. Understanding breast conditions is essential to every woman’s well-being.

To know more about breast diseases or conditions, Health Shots contacted Dr Sajjan Rajpurohit, Senior Director of Oncology at BLK-Max Super Specialty Hospital, Delhi.

There are more breast diseases other than cancer. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

Breast diseases that are not cancer

We may feel pain or notice lumps on our breasts, but that doesn’t mean you have breast cancer. The symptoms could be a sign of another breast-related condition. Here are some of the breast diseases:

1. Fibrocystic breast disease

Fibrocystic breast disease is a common condition in which lumps or cysts form in the breasts, says Dr. Rajpurohit. These lumps may be tender and their size may fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle. Although this condition is not cancerous, it can cause discomfort and pain.

2. Mastitis

Mastitis refers to an infection that occurs in the breast tissue, and new moms should be more careful because it usually occurs during breastfeeding. This often causes redness, swelling, warmth, and pain in the affected area. It can be caused by bacteria that could enter through cracked nipples or blockages in the milk ducts.

3. Benign breast tumors

Benign breast tumors develop in the breast tissue and are noncancerous tumors. They come in different types such as fibroadenomas or papillomas. The expert says these tumors are usually harmless, but still need to be evaluated by a doctor.

4. Ductal carcinoma in situ

This is an early stage of breast cancer where abnormal cells are found inside one or more milk ducts, but have not spread beyond them or into surrounding tissues. It is considered a non-invasive form of breast cancer, but still requires proper monitoring and treatment to prevent progression.

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5. Breast abscess

It is a painful collection of pus that forms in the breast tissue due to a bacterial infection. It is usually associated with complications related to breastfeeding or nipple piercing. You may have swelling and a fever.

6. Galactorrhea

This condition involves abnormal breast milk production that has nothing to do with pregnancy or breastfeeding. It can be caused by certain medications, hormonal imbalances, thyroid problems or tumors affecting the hormone-producing glands, says the expert.

Woman holding chest
The risk of breast problems tends to increase with age. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What increases the risk of breast disease?

As women age, their risk of developing breast diseases, disorders or conditions tends to increase. Indeed, breast tissue becomes less dense and more sensitive to changes and abnormalities with age. Then there’s family history, so if you have a close relative, like a mother or sister, who has had breast cancer or other breast conditions, your chances of developing them might be higher. Lifestyle choices such as obesity and excessive alcohol consumption can also increase the risk of developing breast diseases or disorders, says Dr. Rajpurohit.

It is best to carry out regular self-exams and mammograms for early detection and prompt treatment, regardless of risk factors. While there are medications, surgeries, and therapies, making healthy lifestyle choices can also help reduce the risk and severity of many breast diseases or disorders. The main thing is therefore to maintain a balanced diet, practice regular physical activity, avoid excessive alcohol consumption, not smoke and practice good breastfeeding techniques.

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