If you’ve ever noticed a change in your breasts, like a breast lump or pain, it can be incredibly alarming, and you’re likely to have countless questions running through your head: Is it serious? Should I see a doctor?
Could it be… breast cancer? But before you assume the worst, you should know that there are several common breast problems that aren’t breast cancer.
1. Breast pain
Breast pain, or mastalgia, is very common – about 70% of women experience breast pain at some point in their lives. One of the most common types of breast pain is called cyclical breast pain, or the pain and tenderness caused as a result of the hormonal changes during your menstrual period. All women experience this differently. Some will feel a mild tenderness and others will feel more persistent pain.
Other types of breast pain (or non-cyclical breast pain) that can occur as a result of problems outside the breast, like a connective tissue strain or spinal issues. Fortunately, it’s unlikely that cyclical and non-cyclical breast pain are a result of breast cancer. That said, you should absolutely let your doctor know you are experiencing breast pain if you are worried or if it becomes problematic in your every-day life.
2. Breast lumps
Many breast lumps are either fibrosis or simple cysts, and the good news is that neither are cancerous. They’re most common in women of child-bearing age, but they can happen at any time in a woman’s life. Fibrosis is a mass of fibrous tissue in the breast, which can feel rubbery or hard to the touch. A cyst is a fluid-filled sac in the breast, and these can feel tender to the touch.
The pain and tenderness that you feel as the result of fibrosis and cysts can vary greatly, especially during the various stages of your menstrual cycle. If you feel a breast lump, don’t panic. Your doctor will likely give you an ultrasound to determine if the lump or solid or fluid-filled. And, thankfully, neither fibrosis nor cysts can elevate your risk of breast cancer later in life.
3. Nipple discharge
Nipple discharge (or galactorrhea) can be scary, but it’s something that many women experience a year or two after giving birth. This type of discharge is typically milky-colored and can also result from an under-active thyroid or as a side effect of certain medications. If you have nipple discharge that occurs without squeezing the breast, and is clear or bloody, this may be linked to an abnormal growth in the breast. To be safe, let your doctor know if you are experiencing either type of nipple discharge.
4. Breast tumors
The thought of having a breast tumor is terrifying, but there are non-cancerous breast tumors, like fibroadenomas, that are more common than you think. Fibroadenomas are often found in women in their 20s and 30s, but can be found in women of any age, and typically shrink after menopause. These tumors are round with clear-cut borders, and it’s entirely possible to have more than one of them. Your doctor will want to do a biopsy to diagnose the tumor and determine if it is fibroadenoma or another issue.
5. Breast skin changes
If you’re experiencing skin changes on your breasts, you’re not alone in that either. Itching, redness, scaling, or crusting can be the result of a rash, mole, cyst, or skin infection. Since breast skin changes can be linked to several causes, we recommend you speak with your doctor for a complete evaluation.
Make breast health a priority
As a woman, it’s imperative to prioritize health at any age. Make sure you see your doctor regularly, in addition to keeping abreast of any notable changes. Keep checking the FemmePharma blog throughout October for more information on breast and menopausal health.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. About 1 in 8 U.S. women will diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. In support of women diagnosed and living with breast cancer, FemmePharma will donate $5 to Living Beyond Breast Cancer with every purchase of our intimate skin moisturizer throughout October when you use the code LBBC5 at checkout.