Breast pain (mastalgia) is the most common breast related complaint
among women; nearly 70% of women experience breast pain at some
point in their lives. Breast pain may occur in one or both breasts
or in the underarm (axilla) region of the body. The severity of
breast pain varies from woman to woman; approximately 15% of women
Some women have breast pain or discomfort that is related to their
menstrual cycle. This type of cyclic pain is most common in the
week or so before a menstrual period. It often goes away once menstruation
begins. Many women with fibrocystic changes have cyclic breast
pain. This is thought to be caused by changes in hormone levels.
Know your cyclical pains, and note if breast pain occurs in tune
with the monthly period, and in both breasts. While uncomfortable,
if it is normal to you, it may not be worrisome. But if you have
pain which occurs off-cycle or in only one breast or armpit, get
it checked out.
Some benign breast conditions, such as breast inflammation (mastitis)
may cause a more sudden pain in one spot. In these cases the pain
is not related to the menstrual cycle. Rarely, breast cancer lumps
can be painful, too. Though breast pain is not normally associated
with breast cancer, women who experience any breast abnormalities,
including breast pain, should consult their physicians.
Although a discharge (other than milk) from the nipple may be
alarming, in most cases it is caused by a benign condition. As
with breast lumps, the younger a woman is, the more likely it is
that the condition is benign.
In benign conditions, a non-milky discharge is usually clear,
yellow, green, or brown. If the discharge contains blood that you
can see or that is found in lab tests, the cause is still not likely
to be cancer. But it is cause for more concern and more testing.
Again, while benign conditions are much more common than breast
cancer, it is important to let your health care team know about
any changes in your breast so they can be checked out right away.
Calcifications are one of the findings that
can be seen on your mammogram. These are very small bits of calcium
can appear within the soft tissue of your breast. Calcifications
are not breast cancer. These aren't always a sign of breast cancer.
Sometimes calcifications are an indication of a precancerous condition.
They appear as white dots on your mammogram.
Calcifications are divided into two kinds:
- Macro-calcifications are bigger bits of calcium, and are not
usually linked to breast cancer.
- Microc-alcifications are quite tiny bits of calcium, and may
show up in clusters, or in patterns (like circles or lines) and
are associated with extra cell activity in breast tissue. Usually
the extra cell growth is not cancerous, but sometimes tight clusters
of micro-calcifications can indicate early breast cancer. Scattered
micro-calcifications are usually a sign of benign breast tissue.
If your mammogram shows micro-calcifications in tight clusters,
your doctor or radiologist may recommend that you have a diagnostic
mammogram, an ultrasound, or a biopsy.
If you have a couple of micro-calcifications that look questionable,
you may be asked to come back in six months for a comparative mammogram.
That will help the doctors see if any changes are happening.
It’s good to do these follow-up exams to make sure that
you get the best information on your health.
There is no known association between dietary
calcium intake or any other dietary factors and the development
of breast calcifications. There is, likewise, no correlation
between post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy and breast
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