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Pink Uniform Doctor

Breast Health

Why is breast screening important?

In the United States, one in eight women will develop breast cancer by age 75 years. Regular breast screening can help find cancer at an early and more curable stage. Screening also can find problems in the breasts that are not cancer.


What is mammography?

Mammography is the primary tool used to screen for breast cancer and other problems. Mammography uses X-ray technology to view the breasts. The images created are called a mammogram. A physician called a radiologist reads the images.

What is a benign breast condition?

A benign breast condition is one that is not cancer. These problems often go away on their own or are easily treated. Because a few benign breast conditions can increase your risk of getting cancer in the future, you may need to have follow-up tests or exams.


What are the different types of benign breast problems?

Benign breast problems include pain, lumps or masses, infections, nipple discharge, and skin changes.


What causes benign breast pain?

There are two types of breast pain: 1) cyclic and 2) noncyclic.

  • Cyclic breast pain occurs in response to changes in hormone levels. Your breasts may feel swollen, more sensitive, or painful before your menstrual period. You may have similar symptoms if you use combined hormonal contraception such as birth control pills or hormone therapy for menopause.

  • Noncyclic breast pain is not related to the menstrual cycle. It usually occurs in one breast in one specific area. Many things can cause this type of pain, including injury, infection, medications, and large breast size. In rare cases, noncyclic breast pain can be caused by breast cancer.

How are benign breast conditions evaluated?

If you have breast symptoms, let your health care professional know. You most likely will have a breast exam. In some cases, you may need to have an imaging test of your breast. Breast imaging can be done with mammography, an ultrasound exam, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Imaging may be followed by a biopsy.

What kind of follow-up will I need if I have a benign breast condition?

Most benign breast conditions do not increase your risk of cancer, but some, such as certain types of breast lumps, do. If you have a condition that increases the risk of cancer, more frequent clinical breast exams, and imaging tests over the next 1–2 years may be recommended. The recommended course of follow-up is based on your age, health risks, and test results.

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