A lesion is characterized by an abnormal change in the integrity and intensity of the tissues in a specific area of the body. If this change happens in and around the breasts, it is referred to as a breast lesion. A breast lesion is characterized by the formation of lumps in and around the breasts.
It can also cause the breasts to swell abnormally in certain areas. In most cases, breast lesions would be easily felt during a breast examination (either by self or by a physician). Non palpable breast lesions on the other hand cannot be felt by regular examinations but show up during a routine mammogram.
Breast lesions can typically fall into any one of the following categories. These include developmental abnormalities (conditions like ectopic breasts, mastitis, mammary duct extasia and fat necrosis), fibrocystic changes (conditions like cysts, papillary apocrine change, epithelial calcifications, epithelial hyperplasia, ductal ecstasia, nonclerosing adenosis and periductal fibrosi etc.), stormal lesions (conditions like diabetic fibrous mastopathy and pseudoangiomatous stromal hyperplasia etc.) and neoplasms (conditions like lipoma, fibroadenoma, adenoma, hamartoma and granular cell tumor etc.)
In most cases, a breast lesion would be benign and would not be a cause for concern. It can be easily spotted and diagnosed with the help of ultrasounds, mammography, magnetic resonance imaging or needle biopsies. This would in turn curb the need to do a surgical diagnosis or treatment with the exception of a few very rare cases wherein the lesion leads to breast cancer.
Different Causes for Breast Lesions
The breast is made up of different types of tissues including fatty tissues that are generally soft to the touch and glandular tissues that are comparatively firm. In these cases, it is considered perfectly normal for a woman to experience breast tenderness, lumps, or swelling at times when the hormonal levels in the body fluctuate rapidly. And this is more prominent during menstrual cycles, pregnancy or menopause.
Infections of Injuries
Infections like breast mastitis that mostly occur during lactation would put a woman at increased risks of developing breast lesions. In certain cases, damage to the breast tissues by accidents or physical trauma can also cause breast lesions. The injury would cause internal bleeding which would lead to the formation of blood clots in and around the affected area. These would appear as lumps on the surface.
Non Malignant Growths
Certain conditions of the breast can lead to the formation of breast lesions. For instance, fibroadenoma is a breast condition that causes the formation of non malignant lumps in the breast which are rubbery and easily movable.
Fibrocystic changes can also cause tender, non cancerous breast lesions in women.
In certain cases, a woman may pass on the excess pregnancy hormones generated in her body during pregnancy (mainly estrogen) to the baby in her womb. This can cause breast lesions in the infant. Some girls also tend to develop breast lesions as and when they near puberty.
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Risk Factors of Breast Lesions
In the majority of cases, a breast lesion would be non cancerous and would not be a cause for concern. However, there is always the rare possibility of a lesion becoming cancerous and causing breast cancer. In these cases, the lesion would have to be checked out by a physician and would be deemed as cancerous if:-
1. The lesions increase in size and become painful.
2. The area around the lumps changes color and swells up profusely.
3. Discharge of pus and blood is noted from the nipple.
The importance of Proper Diagnosis
It is always considered wise to self examine breasts in addition to opting for regular mammograms to rule out any anomalies that could lead to breast cancer. Self examination would help a woman spot possible lumps and lesions within her breasts. And even though most breast lesions are considered benign, it would be safe to get them examined thoroughly by a physician as well.
Accordingly, once a self examination reveals a possible lesion, the individual would need to opt for a professional diagnosis. The doctor would run a series of tests like ultrasounds, mammograms and MRI etc. to confirm the existence of a lesion within the breast.
When the presence of a lesion is confirmed via these tests, the doctor would opt for additional tests to check whether the lesion is benign or malignant. Almost 1 out of every 4 breast lesions can turn out to be malignant. Women who have a history of breast cancer in the family are also more vulnerable to the disease. Therefore, the doctor would perform an excision biopsy or a breast biopsy to check for cancerous cells within the lesion.
A lesion would be termed as malignant if it contains cancerous cells that could rapidly spread to other parts of the body. Otherwise, it would be termed as benign which means it is not cancerous and does not pose risks of spreading to other areas within the body. It is estimated that about one out of every four breast lesions are found to be malignant. Early detection of any problems will lead to a greater chance of successful treatment.
Treatment of Breast Lesions
The treatment options for breast lesions would vary depending on whether the lesion is benign or malignant. Even benign lesions can pose risks to the health of the breasts if they tend to be too large. Large breast lesions that are left untreated can possibly turn cancerous later on as well. Therefore, the best way to treat a breast lesion would be to remove it completely
In most cases, a benign breast lesion would be removed via an invasive surgery called lumpectomy that would remove the lesion and a little bit of surrounding tissue. In case the lumpectomy fails to remove the lesion completely or cannot be considered as an option altogether (this happens when the lesion is too large to be treated by lumpectomy), the doctor would opt for a mastectomy to remove the entire breast and the surrounding tissues. Mastectomy would be considered as the last option in case of benign lesions that do not pose risks of breast cancer.
In case the breast lesion turns out to be malignant, the doctor would opt for either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy followed by regular chemotherapy or radiation treatments. This would remove the cancerous lesion and prevent the cells from spreading further into the body.
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