- Non-cancerous Breast Conditions
- What is normal breast tissue and what does it do?
- Finding benign breast conditions
- American Cancer Society recommendations for early breast cancer detection
- Diagnosing benign breast changes
- Imaging tests for breast disease
- Nipple discharge exam (nipple smear)
- Types of non-cancerous breast conditions
- Fibrosis and simple cysts
- Lobular carcinoma in situ
- Phyllodes tumors
- Intraductal papillomas
- Granular cell tumors
- Fat necrosis and oil cysts
- Duct ectasia
- Other benign breast conditions
- How benign breast conditions affect breast cancer risk
- For women at increased breast cancer risk
- Additional resources
Diagnosing benign breast changes
If your symptoms or mammogram results suggest that you may have breast cancer or benign breast disease, your doctor will take some more steps to find out what it is. It is important to know exactly what the problem is so that the best treatment can be chosen.
Medical history and physical exam
The first steps are health questions (medical history) and a physical exam. Answering questions about your and your family's past health will give your doctor information about your risk factors for breast cancer and benign breast conditions. The doctor will also ask about any symptoms you are having, including how long you have had them.
Next, the doctor will do a thorough breast exam to find any lumps and to feel their texture, size, and relationship to the skin and chest muscles. Any changes in the nipples or the skin of the breasts will be noted. The lymph nodes under the armpit and above the collarbones may be felt because swelling or firmness of these lymph nodes might be a sign of spread of breast cancer. (Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped collections of immune system cells to which breast cancers often spread first.)
Along with questions about your health and a physical exam, imaging tests and a breast biopsy may be done.
Last Medical Review: 08/24/2012
Last Revised: 08/24/2012