Descriptions below give general descriptions of conditions associated with the breast. Note that these descriptions are only for general reference and may not be relevant to your particular case. Please consult with your surgeon about your specific surgical plan and any special circumstances.
Most breast lumps are benign (non-cancerous). Benign breast lumps may be fibrocystic or normal tissue, cysts (fluid-filled sacs), or fibroadenomas (non-cancerous tumors). Benign breast lumps usually have defined borders. Benign breast lumps sometimes increase or decrease in size depending on hormonal factors.
- Nipple discharge
- Breast tenderness or pain
- Defined borders
- Increase or decrease in size dependent on menstrual cycle
In some instances, benign breast lumps require no treatment. In other cases, fine needle aspiration, core needle biopsy, or surgical biopsy may be required. Occasionally, benign breast tumors may need to be surgically removed.
Recovery is dependent on the type of surgical treatment deemed appropriate by your doctor.
Breast pain can manifest as tenderness, sharp or burning pain, or tightness. It can be constant or come and go. Pain is often associated with the menstrual cycle; women frequently experience breast discomfort either leading up to their period or both before and during their period. This kind of pain affects both breast. Call your doctor when breast pain occurs in only one breast, is not associated with a menstrual cycle, or continues after menopause.
Breast cancer is diagnosed when a tumor is found to be malignant (capable of invading surrounding tissues or other areas of the body). Breast cancer can be found in any area of the breast, but many begin in either the milk ducts or milk glands. It is important to realize that not all breast cancer manifests as a lump in the breast. Early diagnosis is key to effective treatment of most breast cancers.
- Breast swelling (even without a distinct lump)
- Skin irritation, redness, or scaliness of breast or nipple
- Skin dimpling
- Breast or nipple pain
- Inverted nipple
- Nipple discharge
Depending on the type of breast cancer and its severity, a lumpectomy or mastectomy will be performed. A lumpectomy removes the breast cancer mass and some normal tissue surrounding the mass in order to ensure a clear margin. The nipple is not removed in most cases. If the cancer is larger or more diffuse, a mastectomy may be necessary. A mastectomy removes the entire breast. If a woman chooses to undergo breast reconstruction, the nipple and areola will be preserved, and reconstruction will be done after the mastectomy is completed.
A lumpectomy is generally done as an outpatient procedure. Mastectomy patients can expect to spend 1-2 days in the hospital following their surgery. Drain tubes are inserted at the mastectomy site to collect residual fluid. Normal activities can be resumed as incisions heal fully. Your doctor will determine whether chemotherapy or radiation is needed following your surgery.