Breast cancer

Updated 08 November 2017

Benign breast conditions

Learn more about some of the benign breast conditions.


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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Breast cancer expert

Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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