Healthy breasts are made up of tissues that produce milk (glandular tissue), connective tissue, and fat. Breasts also contain network of lymph vessels (lymph nodes), blood vessels and nerves which provide feeling to the breast. In addition, breasts have small amount of muscles which in nipples provide sensitivity/erection and muscles around the lobules which help to squeeze milk into the ducts. Every woman is responsible for healthy breasts and every woman needs to know how to maintain healthy breasts and how to prevent breast diseases.
Health experts recommend targeting first child before 30 because in-time breasfeeding (minimum during 6 months) can reduce risks for breast cancer. Healthy lifestyle is crucial for healthy breasts (regular physical activities, healthy diet without alcohol, no smoking). Normal body mass index (BMI) is also important. Overweight and obesity could increase breast cancer risks.
During different periods of life (adolescence, pregnancy and menopause) female breasts undergo normal changes. At the same time, during normal monthly menstrual cycles breasts also can be changed due to hormonal fluctuation. These changes can cause breast enlargement at certain periods of menstrual cycle, can trigger lumpy breasts or breast tenderness or sore breasts.
Most common breast diseases include breast cysts, fibrocystic breasts, breast fibroadenoma, mastitis and breast cancer.
Top 5 breast diseases – breast cysts
Breast cysts are fluid filled sacs which usually form when normal milk glands in the breast get bigger – when a duct becomes blocked or the amount of produced fluid is greater than the amount absorbed. In these cases the fluid accumulates and cause breast cysts. Women can have one or several breast cysts at a time. They usually feel like a fluid filled balloon with distinct edges. Commonly breast cysts occur in women during most reproductive period of life (30-40). Cysts can come and go, and vary during the menstrual cycle. Breast cysts usually diminish during premenopause and disappear after menopause.
Breast cysts range in size from smaller than a pea to larger than a ping pong ball. Most breast cysts are benign – they move easily to the touch and are hard and round; they are not attached to surrounding breast tissue.
Breast cysts symptoms:
Smooth, easily movable round or oval breast lump which is well circumscribed;
Breast enlargement or increased breast tenderness just before menstrual period;
Decreased breast symptoms after regular monthly menstrual period.
Top 5 breast diseases – fibrocystic breasts
Fibrocystic breasts can be considered as common benign condition which are characterized by lumpiness and usually discomfort in one or both breasts. Fibrocystic breasts mean fibrocystic changes in breasts (“lumpy breasts”) which can affects about 60-65% of women. Commonly fibrocystic breasts occur in women during most reproductive period of life (30-45) and usually triggered by hormonal fluctuation (normal and abnormal). After menopause hormonal fluctuations are dramatically changed (reduced) and breast fibrocystic changes usually stop happening.
Hormone replacement therapy and/or birth control pills and/or other hormonal contraception could be responsible for fibrocystic breasts.
Top 5 breast diseases
Fibrocystic breasts – symptoms:
Breast increased sensitivity,
Firm, smooth, rubbery feeling in breasts,
Lumps (one or more) in breasts – tend to move around under the skin,
Symptoms of fibrocystic breasts can become worse right before monthly menstrual period and can improve after period. Commonly symptoms appear in both breasts, they can be persistent or come and go.
Top 5 breast diseases – breast fibroadenoma
Fibroadenoma is a benign breast non-cancerous tumor. Breast fibroadenomas are usually found as single lump but in 10-15% cases several lumps could appear in both breasts. Breast fibroadenoma carries very slight risk for future breast cancer; the majority of fibroadenoma are benign breast growths. Breast fibroadenoma is more common in women under age 30.
The cause of breast fibroadenoma is not clearly known but scientists suggest increased estrogen sensitivity and/or increased levels of estrogen to be responsible for breast fibroadenoma development. It was noted that after menopause most breast fibroadenomas spontaneously shrink due to reduced levels of estrogen.
Annual screening mammography could discover breast fibroadenoma. On mammogram fibroadenoma is visible as glandular and fibrous breast tissue (single or multiple). According to health experts, multiple/complex breast fibroadenoma have higher risks for breast cancer.
Breast fibroadenoma symptoms:
Breast lump (isolated breast mass, sphere shaped with smooth surface);
Breast tenderness or pain (feels slightly malleable or rubbery to the touch);
Size – majority of fibroadenoma grow no larger than 1-3 cm.
Top 5 breast diseases – mastitis
Mastitis is a bacterial infection that occurs when harmful bacteria infiltrate the breast tissue through small holes in nipple’s milk ducts or through breached area of nipple skin (scratch and/or cracks) and then multiply within the fatty tissue of affected breast. Infiltrated infection usually multiplied causing redness, swelling, warmth and pain in localized area of breast. Mastitis usually affects only one breast and severe symptoms often develop quickly.
Breast increased sensitivity, tenderness, redness and enlargement;
Warm or hot painful zone of breast tissue;
Burning sensation in specific area of breast;
Hard painful breast;
Breast skin itching;
Liquid or pus discharge from nipple;
General fewer (increased body temperature up to 39-40 °C;
Swollen lymph node on affected side of breast;
Breast lump (hard, painful).
Top 5 breast diseases – breast cancer
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women. It is the second leading cause of cancer mortality in women (after lung cancer). According to health statistics, about 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of lifetime. During last decades the death rates from breast cancer have been gradually declining and continue to decline due to increased awareness, screening programs and improved treatment methods.
Breast cancer causes are not clear identifies but risk factors are well known. They include gender (female), aging, family history of cancer (especially breast cancer), early menstrual periods (11 or younger), late menopause (55 or older), late childhood (after 30-35), radiation, regular alcohol consumption and some types of hormonal treatments.
Breast cancer symptoms:
Breast lump (painless lump which is not changing and not disappearing during different periods of menstrual cycle);
Breast nipple changes (inverted nipple, changed nipple shape or size or appearance);
Breast pain (sharp unexpected breast pain combined with some breast tenderness);
Changes in breast shape or size;
Increased sensitive or painful breast lymph nodes;
Breast skin changes (dimpled or puckered – typical so called “orange peel skin”);
One side breast redness, irritation, swelling and increased temperature (warmer breast).
Disclaimer: It is strongly recommended to consult your doctor for professional advice. Above mentioned information and recommendations are just general and should be adapted to each person according to personal health indicators and status.