Hyperplasia and Other Benign Breast Issues

Some Benign Breast Conditions Are Harmless: Others Can Increase Your Risk

Radiology Technologist Jeanne Wilcoxson conducts a breast exam. Credit: Don Bartletti / Contributor / Getty Images

While finding a lump or growth in the breast can be terrifying, they are often completely harmless or benign. Benign breast conditions like hyperplasia are non-cancerous breast issues. While some of these conditions are harmless, others may increase your risk of developing cancer later on. These conditions that raise your risk are known as proliferative breast conditions. By understanding these conditions versus other conditions like cysts, you can better understand your risks and decide on appropriate preventative measures.

 

About Hyperplasia

Hyperplasia is the most common type of proliferative breast conditions. There are two kinds of hyperplasia: usual hyperplasia and atypical hyperplasia. Usual hyperplasia is more common than atypical hyperplasia.

Usual hyperplasia occurs when the dividing cells look normal when examined under a microscope.  If your doctor tells you that you have usual hyperplasia, you are two times as likely to develop breast cancer as compared to other women. 

Atypical hyperplasia is identified when the dividing cells appear abnormal when examined. If you have this condition, you are four to five times more likely to develop breast cancer, making regular screenings or preventative measures more important. 

Breast Cancer Screenings for Those with Hyperplasia

If you have atypical hyperplasia, your doctor may recommend special screenings and precautions. Women with this condition are often told to have yearly mammograms, clinical breast exams every six to twelve months and may undergo an MRI screening.

While these measures don't prevent cancer, they will help catch it early if it does develop, making it easier to treat. 

Your doctor may also recommend you start a medication regimen. Risk-lowering drugs like tamoxifen have been shown to reduce women's risks of developing breast cancer

Other Benign Breast Conditions

There are other breast conditions that are completely benign and do not increase your risk of developing breast cancer.

While some can be uncomfortable, they are  not dangerous and can be easily removed. There are many forms of benign conditions, such as cysts.

Cysts are just fluid-filled sacs that can show up on a mammogram or be felt as a lump in the breast. An ultrasound will quickly determine that a cyst exists rather than cancer. A biopsy is normally not needed. Cysts normally don't require any treatment. However, they can be painful or become sore. In those cases, they can be drained to reduce discomfort. While they can be annoying, they do not increase your risk of developing cancer. 

While many breast conditions are harmless, some benign issues can increase your risk of getting breast cancer later on in life. Hyperplasia is a common condition that may require additional screenings and precautions to manage your risk of developing cancer. Particularly in the case of atypical hyperplasia, your doctor will work with you to develop an effective treatment plan in order to minimize risk and catch cancer early on.

 

If you find a lump or an abnormality on a mammogram, don't panic. Chances are it is a benign growth and it could be a harmless cyst. However, it's important to consult with your doctor to make sure that it is not something more serious. You'll be able to stay ahead of any issues and manage any conditions quickly. 

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