5 Breast Conditions That Aren’t Cancer

worried woman places hands on chest as if in pain

Breast symptoms including lumps, swelling, and nipple discharge are all possible symptoms of breast cancer, but more often they are symptoms of breast conditions that are benign – not cancer. Help keep your breasts healthy by paying attention to how they normally look and feel and let your health care provider know about any changes.

These 5 benign breast conditions often need no treatment, but some do. And some are linked with a higher risk for getting breast cancer later on.

Fibrosis and simple cysts

  • Signs and symptoms can include lumps, swelling, tenderness, or pain.
  • Treatment is not needed but may be used to help ease discomfort. Options may include heating pads, supportive bras, over-the-counter pain relievers, avoiding caffeine, removing cyst fluid, and surgery.
  • This condition does not increase cancer risk.

Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)

  • LCIS usually does not cause a lump. It’s often diagnosed when a woman is being checked for another breast problem nearby.
  • Most of the time LCIS does not need treatment, but in some cases a doctor will recommend surgery.
  • LCIS increases the risk of breast cancer. Women with LCIS should talk to their health care provider about being screened more often, and/or trying to lower their risk through lifestyle changes, medication, or surgery.

Fibroadenomas

  • Some fibroadenomas feel like a marble in the breast, but some can’t be felt and are only found on a mammogram or other imaging test. A biopsy is needed to fully diagnose it.
  • Many doctors recommend removing fibroadenomas, especially if they’re growing. If they stop growing or if removing them may mean removing a lot of healthy breast tissue, a doctor may recommend leaving them in place and checking them often.
  • Fibroadenomas slightly increase breast cancer risk.

Fat necrosis and oil cysts

  • Damage to the breast from injury, surgery, or radiation treatment may cause a lump. The skin around it may look thicker, red, or bruised. This condition is more common in women with very large breasts.
  • No treatment is needed unless the lump is causing discomfort.
  • This condition does not increase breast cancer risk.

Mastitis

  • An infection may cause swelling in the breast, especially in women who are breastfeeding. The breast may be painful, red, and warm to the touch.
  • Mastitis is usually treated with antibiotics. If antibiotics don’t seem to be helping after a week or so, go back to the doctor since symptoms of this infection are similar to the symptoms of  inflammatory breast cancer.
  • Mastitis does not increase breast cancer risk.

See Non-Cancerous Breast Conditions for a more detailed list.

Men

Men can get breast cancer and benign breast conditions too, although it is much less common. Men should have any breast changes checked out by a health care provider. Symptoms may include:

  • A breast lump or swelling, which is often (but not always) painless
  • A lump or swelling under the arm or around the collar bone
  • Skin dimpling or puckering
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Redness or scaling of the nipple or breast skin
  • Discharge from the nipple

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.


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