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The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 252,710 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2017. Fortunately, not every bump, lump, rash or pain we feel on our breasts turn out to be cancerous, but if its not cancer… what exactly is it?
Coordinated Health Breast Surgeon Dr. Cara Guilfoyle, helps patients understand different breast conditions that are commonly mistaken as cancer. However, she warns that it is important to rule out every possibility.
“I usually tell patients that you can never be too sure of something”, advises Dr. Guilfoyle.
A benign breast condition refers to a lump, cyst, or nipple discharge (fluid) of the female or male breast that is not cancerous. Benign breast conditions are quite common and oftentimes women fear the worst right away.
Dr. Cara Guilfoyle has helped numerous women rule out breast cancer and has found that common conditions women mistake as cancer include but are not limited to fibroadenomas, lipoma, benign masses, breast cellulitis, abscess formations, and fibrocystic breasts.
The breast is made up of fatty tissue, glandular tissue and structural components, which hold the breast together. Fibroadenomas, for example, is a common benign mass that is made up of these structural components of the breast. Breast cellulitis and abscess formations can sometimes present similarly to inflammatory breast cancer and should therefore not be dismissed.
“Benign conditions are generally not hereditary and can be due to diet or hormonal fluctuations. For example, cyst formation can be related to a diet high in caffeine.”, says Dr. Guilfoyle.
While breast issues are more prominent among women, men can also suffer from benign breast conditions. Benign breast conditions that affect men include but are not limited to cellulitis, breast abscesses, or something called gynecomastia, which is the male development of breast tissue. It is also possible for men to get breast cancer.
“I usually suggest that men who present with a breast lump should have their breast tissue biopsied to prove it is not cancer. Breast cancer is very uncommon among men so typically men who present with breast lumps are suffering from benign breast conditions. I try to rule out the possibly of breast cancer to reassure them that there isn’t a malignant process going on”, explains Dr. Guilfoyle.
One necessary instrument in order to remain proactive in identifying breast cancer includes monthly self-breast examinations.
“It’s important for patients to practice monthly self breast examinations around the same time every month and in the same position. I advise patients to undergo examinations however they are comfortable, whether it’s lying down or while in the shower. Examining the breasts around the same time every month ensures that your breasts are in a similar hormonal state every month”, says Dr. Guilfoyle.
Dr. Guilfoyle stresses the importance of identifying breast cancer early in order to make certain a lesser means of treatment will be necessary.
“If we can identify the breast cancer early on, it is less likely to spread which provides a better outcome for the patient in the long run”, advises Dr. Guilfoyle.
Overall, the most important consideration to make while ruling out breast cancer is the importance of seeking attention from a medical professional at an early stage.
“I never want patients to discount any conditions they are experiencing. Just because a patient may have been diagnosed with a benign breast condition in the past does not guarantee they are free of breast cancer for life”, says Dr. Guilfoyle.