Benign Breast Conditions | Women's Health | Loyola Medicine

Benign Breast Conditions

Clinically Integrated Care for Women with Benign Breast Conditions

Loyola Medicine offers comprehensive, clinically integrated care for benign breast conditions. We understand that if you have noticed breast changes, you want a diagnosis as soon as possible. Our highly experienced specialists will determine what is causing your symptoms and develop the best treatment plan for you.

Fortunately, most changes in the breast are due to benign conditions, not breast cancer. Loyola’s experts treat a range of benign and high-risk breast conditions, including: 

  • Benign cysts
  • Fat necrosis and oil cysts 
  • Fibroadenomas 
  • Hyperplasia 
  • Intraductal papilloma 
  • Lipomas 
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ
  • Mammary duct ectasia 
  • Mastitis 
  • Phyllodes tumors 
  • Radial scars (complex sclerosing lesions) 
  • Sclerosing adenosis ​

Why Choose Loyola for Benign Breast Conditions?

Loyola provides truly integrated clinical care for benign breast conditions, bringing together specialists in radiology, primary care, surgery and pathology to provide advanced care in a compassionate environment.

As part of an academic medical center, Loyola’s expert clinicians perform and teach the latest diagnostic and therapeutic techniques and medical treatments in numerous locations in western and southwestern Chicagoland. Our doctors and advanced practice nurses provide preventive care for women of all ages. In addition, our nurses have earned Magnet status, which means they have been recognized for delivering the highest level of care. 

What are Benign Breast Conditions?

If you notice changes in your breasts, it is important to see your Loyola doctor to identify the condition. Benign breast conditions—which are the result of changes in breast tissue—can result in lumps, skin redness, skin thickening, pain or nipple discharge.

Benign breast changes can be easily treated. Some lesions may put you at a higher risk for developing breast cancer, and your doctor will want to monitor you more closely. Breast lumps, which can occur in both men and women, should always be examined by a doctor.

Loyola’s experts treat benign breast conditions, including:

  • Fat necrosis and oil cysts — Damage to fatty tissue in the breast from injury, surgery or radiation usually results in scarring, but sometimes triggers the formation of fat necrosis or benign oil cysts. These changes sometimes can be felt as lumps during an exam. Women with large, fatty breasts are more prone to this condition.  Fat necrosis and oil cysts are not linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
  • Fibroadenomas — Fibroadenomas are benign tumors of the breast made up of both glandular and connective tissue and may present as a lump or cause no symptoms and only be detected during a routine mammogram. Your doctor may recommend routine monitoring or surgical removal; some fibroadenomas may stop growing or shrink without intervention.
  • Benign cysts — Changes in breast tissue in women are often triggered by the rise and fall of hormones during the normal menstrual cycle, and these changes are usually noticed in both breasts. Benign breast cysts are fluid-filled sacs within the breast and a common cause of breast lumps. Breast cysts may cause breast pain, tenderness, or swelling and sometimes nipple discharge. This benign condition does not lead to an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Hyperplasia — Hyperplasia occurs in the ducts or lobules and is caused by an overproduction of normal cells. Hyperplasia does not usually result in a lump, but may be seen on a mammogram or other breast-imaging test. Atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH) occurs when breast cells take on an abnormal appearance. ADH is not cancer but patients with ADH are at a greater risk for developing breast cancer and should undergo regular mammogram screening.
  • Intraductal papilloma — Papillomas are wart-­like growths within breast ducts, and when found close to the nipple may cause a clear or bloody nipple discharge. Papillomas may also present as a lump and may be multiple or occur in both breasts at the same time.
  • Lipomas — These benign fatty tumors can be found in the breast and often grow slowly. Treatment is not usually required; but if the lipoma is growing, painful or bothersome, you may wish to have it removed.
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ — Patients with this condition have abnormal appearing cells form within the breast lobules (milk­ producing glands).  Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) is an uncommon condition and is not cancer. Patients with lobular carcinoma in situ have a greater chance of developing breast cancer and should have regular screening mammograms.
  • Mammary duct ectasia — This condition occurs when a milk duct behind the nipple enlarges, the duct walls thicken and the duct fills with fluid. The milk duct can become blocked or clogged and nipple discharge may occur. This condition usually occurs in women around 45 to 55 years of age and does not increase the risk for developing breast cancer.
  • Mastitis — This condition occurs when the breast becomes infected, usually with bacteria; it is often seen in women who are breastfeeding and is treated with antibiotics. However, if a breast infection does not clear with antibiotics, inform your doctor right away because mastitis symptoms are similar to those found in inflammatory breast cancer. Having mastitis does not increase the chances of developing breast cancer.
  • Phyllodes tumors — These breast tumors may be benign, malignant or borderline and usually are surgically removed.
  • Radial scars (complex sclerosing lesions) — Radial scars are usually found incidentally on mammograms and can look like breast cancer.  A biopsy is usually performed to provide a definitive diagnosis.
  • Sclerosing adenosis — Sclerosing adenosis is a benign form of fibrocystic change that may present on mammography as a mass or area of distortion or suspicious appearing calcifications. The cause is unknown. This condition is associated with a 1.5 to 2x increased risk of developing breast cancer. Surgical biopsy is not needed for pure sclerosing adenosis. 

How are Benign Breast Conditions Diagnosed?

Loyola’s specialists are experts at diagnosing benign breast conditions. Your doctor will take a detailed medical and family history and conduct a physical examination of the breasts as well as the tissue under the arms and around the collarbone. Depending on your condition, your doctor may request imaging including:

  • Mammogram Mammography uses x-rays to obtain detailed images of the breasts and is the best screening test for breast cancer.
  • Breast Ultrasound This examination uses sound waves to create images of the breast and may be performed at the same time as a mammogram, especially in the cases of a palpable lump or focal area of breast concern.
  • Ductogram A ductogram or galactogram is a special breast imaging test that requires contrast material to be injected into the duct causing nipple discharge. Mammogram images are then obtained using x-ray technology.
  • Image-Guided Core Needle Biopsy Loyola’s breast radiologists use mammographic (stereotactic), ultrasound or MRI guidance to localize a suspicious lesion for purposes of needle biopsy. The tissue specimens obtained are then sent to Pathology for microscopic evaluation.
  • Breast MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) Breast MRI uses a magnetic field and radio waves as well as intravenous contrast in order to produce images of the breasts and surrounding tissues and may be a supplemental test in a very small number of patients with benign breast disease.

How are Benign Breast Conditions Treated?

Loyola’s Women’s Health physicians specialize in the diagnosis, treatment and management of benign breast conditions. Your doctor can provide a referral to a Loyola specialist if needed.

Treatment for benign breast conditions may include:

  • Fine needle aspiration — This procedure is used both to collect a sample of cells and fluid and to cause cysts and abscesses to drain and collapse.
  • Medications — Prescriptions can relieve symptoms of some benign breast conditions. For example, antibiotics will eliminate a mastitis infection, and diuretics can relieve breast swelling.
  • Preventive measures — Women with benign conditions that are linked to a greater risk of developing breast cancer may take medication that can lower the risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Surgery — Your doctor may recommend surgery as the best treatment option for your benign breast condition. Sometimes surgery is used to remove fibroadenomas, phyllodes tumors, granular cell tumors and intraductal papillomas.
  • Warm compresses — This approach may ease the symptoms of duct ectasia and fibrocystic changes. 

Advanced Diagnostic Tests to Detect Breast Conditions

Loyola’s physicians provide recommendations for timely and appropriate breast cancer screening.

Self-breast exams are important in the early detection of benign and malignant breast conditions. Just as you would visit a dermatologist for a worrisome change in a mole, you should visit your physician for any changes in your breasts.

In addition to your regular monthly self-exam, your doctor will perform a clinical breast exam in the office and recommend a screening mammogram based on your age and risk factors. Early detection is the key to treating any breast abnormality, either benign or malignant.

Your doctor will use the following tests to screen for breast masses and abnormal tissue:

  • Breast self exam — Your doctor will show you how to perform a self exam so that you may detect any breast lumps that develop in between routine visits with your doctor.
  • Clinical breast exam — Your Loyola doctor will perform a clinical breast exam as part of your regular check­up. Your doctor will carefully examine your breasts and underarms for possible abnormal lumps or tissue thickening.
  • Mammogram — A mammogram is the best screening test for breast cancer. It uses X­-ray technology to create detailed images of the breast. Starting at age 40, yearly screening mammograms are recommended—earlier if you are at higher risk. Screening mammograms are performed on women without any specific breast symptoms. If you have a breast lump or other focal area of concern involving your breast, a diagnostic mammogram and often a breast ultrasound examination will be recommended. Learn more about mammograms. 

Exceptional Research to Improve Future Treatments of Breast Conditions

Loyola’s expert clinicians and radiologists are actively pursuing new research, including studies involving ultrasound imaging, newer breast imaging techniques  as well as new intervention and treatment methods. As an academic medical center, Loyola is dedicated to improving future treatments by conducting research on new diagnostic tools and treatments. Loyola’s patients’ benefit from research discoveries made here. Read about Loyola’s current clinical trials