At the Mater Private Hospital we perform surgery for many different types of breast lumps. 80% of all breast lumps are benign, which means they are not cancerous. Benign breast lumps often do not need to be treated unless they are particularly large or painful, or are getting bigger. Some may even improve in time without any treatment. If a benign lump is particularly large or is getting bigger, surgery may be carried out to remove it.
There are many common causes of benign breast lumps. These can include normal changes in breast tissue, breast infection or injury, as well as medicines that may cause lumps or breast pain to develop. The types of breast lump that can develop include:
Simple Cysts – are fluid-filled sacs. They can occur in both breasts, which can be single or multiple and can vary in size. The degree of tenderness and lump size often changes with the woman’s menstrual cycle.
Intraductal Papillomas - are small, wart-like growths in the lining of the breast near the nipple. They usually affect women 45 - 50 years old. They can also produce bleeding from the nipple.
Traumatic fat necrosis - is a condition which occurs when there is an injury to the breast,however many women do not remember a specific injury. This results in fat to form in lumps, they are generally round, firm, hard, single, and painless.
Fibrocystic changes - fluctuations in hormones during normal monthly menstrual cycles can create changes in the breasts known as fibrocystic breast changes, with lumps in both breasts which increase in size and tenderness prior to menstrual bleeding. Women can also experience nipple discharge.
Fibroadenomas - Fibroadenomas are the most common benign tumors found in the female breast. They are solid, round, rubbery lumps that move freely in the breast when pushed upon and are usually painless. Fibroadenomas are the result of excess formation of lobules (milk-producing glands) and surrounding breast tissue. They occur most often between the ages of 20 - 30 and are more common in African-American women.
If a breast lump is not benign and requires surgery, there are a number of options available depending on the extent of your condition:
Lumpectomy - removes the cancerous tumor along with a rim of potentially healthy tissue around it (known as the margins) without removing the entire breast. The main advantage of lumpectomy is that it can preserve much of the appearance and sensation of your breast. It is a less invasive surgery, so your recovery time is shorter and easier than with mastectomy.
Mastectomy - removes the entire breast or as much of the breast tissue as possible. If removing the entire breast would help you worry less about the possibility of the breast cancer coming back (recurrence), you might consider mastectomy.
Lymph Node Removal - in addition to a lumpectomy or mastectomy, your Doctor may wish to remove and examine lymph nodes to determine whether the cancer has spread and to what extent. If those lymph nodes are affected by cancer cells, then the rest of the lymph nodes in that area will need to be removed during another operation called a lymph node clearance. However, if no cancer cells are found in the sentinel or guard nodes, a further operation will not be necessary.