Breast (cont.)

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What are the most common medical concerns about the breast?

When a woman or a man detects a breast lump, breast cancer is likely the greatest health concern. While most breast lumps are harmless (benign), every breast lump should be evaluated by a doctor to exclude or establish a diagnosis of cancer.

Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer in women and the second most common cause of cancer death in women in the U.S. One in every eight women in the United States develops breast cancer. The risk is even higher for women:

  • with previous breast cancer,
  • those who have first-degree relatives with breast cancer,
  • those with multiple family members with cancer, and
  • those who have inherited "cancer genes."

When detected early, breast cancer has a high cure rate, so the most important strategy in improving survival is breast cancer screening of women with regular mammograms.

In addition to cancers, a number of benign tumors and processes can also affect the breast to cause a lump. Fibroadenoma is an example of a common benign tumor of the breast that occurs in young women. Fibroadenoma is completely cured by surgical removal. Other benign processes in the breast include fibrocystic changes and presence of benign cysts.

Infections of the breast, known as mastitis, are particularly common in women who are breastfeeding. When the skin of the nipple (areola) is injured or cracked, such as occurs with nursing, bacteria can enter the wound and cause infections. Infections can either be a deep pocket of pus, in which the infection looks like it is growing down into the breast (an abscess), or a wider area of skin redness that spreads out (cellulitis).

Cosmetic surgeries are sometimes performed when women request breast reduction or breast augmentation. Although different techniques are used, breast implants have been used for surgical breast enlargement. Breast reconstruction is a cosmetic technique that is also commonly performed after surgical breast removal (mastectomy) for breast cancer.

REFERENCE: Breast Anatomy.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/18/2012

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