Breast cancer

Updated 25 July 2012

Benign breast conditions

Abnormalities of normal development and involution (including breast pain and nodularity)



This includes the following conditions:

  • Breast abscess (see Breast abscess)
  • Fibroadenoma (see Fibroadenoma)
  • Abnormalities of normal development and involution (including breast pain and nodularity) (See: Breast lumps)
  • Nipple adenoma
  • Intraductal papilloma
  • Fat necrosis

Nipple adenoma

Nipple adenomas are non-malignant glandular tissue tumours of the nipple area, which vary in appearance. Nipple adenomas are surgically removed because they are sometimes, although not usually, associated with breast cancer.

Intraductal papilloma

Intraductal papillomas are small, relatively uncommon benign growths in the lining of the milk ducts near the nipple. They produce a discharge, which may be blood-stained. They are usually seen in women over 40. Breast cancer must be excluded by mammography and fine needle aspiration if required.

Intraductal papillomas are surgically removed before they grow big enough to block the milk ducts. The papilloma must be sent for histology to confirm that it is benign.

Although pintraduct papillomas are the commonest cause of bloody discharge of the nipple, cancer must always be ruled out.

Fat necrosis

Fat necrosis is damage to some of the fat tissue within the breast (for example following a motor vehicle accident or after being punched in the breast), which may then lead to the formation of a lump. Bruising occasionally occurs near the lump, and the area may be tender. The mass may be associated with skin or nipple retraction. A fat necrosis mass cannot always be distinguished from breast cancer without biopsy or fine needle aspiration. In a young woman with a history of injury to the breast, needle biopsy, reassurance and follow-up examination are sufficient.

(Reviewed by Dr Jenny Edge, General Surgeon)


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