More than 90% of breast problems are not caused by cancer. However, one in eight women over 40 years of age in general may develop cancer of the breast.
Many women find at some time in their lives that their breasts are giving them cause for concern. They may often have tender, painful breasts or may get anxious about an obvious change like a lump or a discharging nipple that seems to appear overnight!
Whatever the problem maybe, it should not be ignored. It is always sensible to report any breast change immediately. It will not be regarded as wasting of time at all and indeed will not be seen as being over anxious.
It is important for the woman to be breast aware so as to know how her breasts normally feel and look, in case any changes occur.
In some cases, it may be decided that a mammogram (breast x-ray), ultrasound scanning or other tests are needed to make a proper diagnosis.
At the British Clinic it is advocated to do breast self-examination (BSE) and in agreement with www.breastcancer.org, believes that BSE is a useful and essential screening strategy, especially when used in combination with regular physical exams and mammography as well as ultrasound examination. About 20% of the time, breast cancers are found by physical examination rather than by mammography. It is recommended that all women routinely perform breast self-exams as part of their overall breast cancer screening strategy.
Here are some useful information that would help in appreciating the problem :
The changing breast
The female breast goes through many normal changes over a lifetime. Altered levels of hormones, for example during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, breast feeding, menopause and aging all affect the breast.
Many women will experience an exaggerated reaction to normal breast changes at some stage, the severity varying from woman to woman. This may result in one of the common breast problems described here in brief :
Breast pain (mastalgia)
This is probably the most common condition of all, experienced by two out of three women.
There are two types of breast pain :
- Cyclical pain – relating to the monthly period. Typically, the breasts feel heavy, swollen and tender for several days before each period.
- Persistent/intermittent (non-cyclical)pain – often described as a “burning” or a “drawing in” sensation.
Pain chart for a few months will decide which kind of breast pain it is. However continuing breast pain, whether cyclical or other must always be investigated to be able to know the real cause of it and deal with it rightly, appropriately and effectively.
Here are some self-help tips particularly for cyclical pain :
- Ensure to have a well-fitting supportive bra
- Cut down on caffeine (tea, coffee, chocolate)
- Reduce fat intake
- Lose weight (if over weight)
- Vitamin B6 and oil of Evening primrose are effective for some women.
Women with naturally (nodular) breasts tend to be especially sensitive to monthly periods. Some lumps appear unexpectedly.
Fibroadenoma is a single lump of fibrous breast tissue usually found in women aged under 35. It can be quite large and feels firm or rubbery yet mobile. Although benign (harmless), it may have to be removed surgically if it causes discomfort or concern. It is always better out than in!
Cysts are common in older women approaching the menopause. They are fluid-filled sacs which may feel soft or firm and can sometimes be quite painful. They should be checked, drawn off using a syringe with a very fine needle and the fluid analyzed for a firm diagnosis in case there are unwanted abnormalities. Cysts return in about one third of women over the next few years but can always be treated in the same ways.
Other common breast problems
Dilated milk ducts may cause thick nipple discharge, irritation and retraction of the nipple.
Nipple discharge can be yellow, milky or blood-stained. A variety of causes are possible, usually non-cancerous but blood-stained discharge has to be investigated carefully.
Flat or inverted nipples are common to many women but should always report any marked change of appearance such as the nipple “pulling in”
These and other changes such as eczema, skin puckering, dimpling, a rash, or an alteration in the shape of one breast should always be reported to the doctor.
At the British Clinic, breast self examination (BSE) instructions are given as part of any consultation and follow-up of management is always provided.