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Many breast irregularities appear similar to breast cancer. Yet, nearly 90 percent of the lumps, inflammations, nipple discharge and suspicious breast changes are benign, or non-cancerous, tumors or cysts. Below are some descriptions of typical breast irregularities. Please see your doctor if you have any of these conditions.

Breast Lumps

  • Fibroadenomas – These are round, rubbery, freely movable, and generally painless lumps that usually occur in women age 15 to 30. They occur twice as often in African-American women. Since the risk of breast cancer increases with age, such breast masses should be removed to be sure they are benign.
  • Fibrocystic or lumpy breast – This condition is caused by monthly hormone changes in the body, most often in women age 35 to 50. As the hormone levels shift each month, tiny cysts fill with fluid, causing breast tenderness and lumpiness. This is most noticeable right before menstruation. If this occurs in one specific part of the breast, producing an area of thickness, a surgical biopsy or needle aspiration may be needed to determine the exact nature of the thickness.

Nipple Discharge

  • Ductal papillomas – These are small, benign growths that appear in the lining of a duct near the nipple and occur mostly in women age 45 to 50. These generally cannot be felt, but produce a watery or bloody discharge from the nipple. Because a similar nipple discharge may be an early warning sign for breast cancer, this should be investigated further.
  • Mammary duct ectasia – This is a benign condition usually in women who are near or past menopause. The ducts become clogged and distended, which may produce a thick, grayish-green discharge. No treatment is required.