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It is wise to have your painful breasts assessed by your doctor, who may be able to suggest ways to manage the discomfort. Both the contraceptive pill and menopause hormone therapy, or MHT formerly called hormone replacement therapy, or HRT , can cause breast discomfort in some women. Sometimes a change in the prescribed type of hormone may be necessary. Ask your doctor for more information. The normal glandular tissue of the breast is nodular, which means it is lumpy.

Nodularity, particularly when it varies during the menstrual cycle, is normal and not an indication of a breast problem. Breast lumps that feel different from normal breast nodularity should be assessed by your doctor.

Overview of Breast Disorders

These are common, non-painful, benign breast lumps, made up of glands and fibrous tissue. This type of lump feels quite smooth and firm, and is mobile in the breast tissue often called a breast mouse. Fibroadenomas occur more often in women between the ages of 15 and They may occur occasionally in older women. Up to one in six women may have one at some stage. Most fibroadenomas are small, but they can grow as large as a golf ball. They can become tender in the days before the period. Some lumps may require surgical removal.

A breast cyst is a fluid-filled sac in the breast tissue. Cysts can vary in size with the menstrual cycle and may disappear spontaneously. They are benign and harmless, but can be painful. Breast cysts commonly occur between the ages of 35 and 50, but may occasionally occur in younger women. Any new lumps should be assessed by your doctor. Ultrasound can be used to assess whether a lump is cystic fluid or solid.

If the cyst is large and painful, your doctor may aspirate remove using suction the fluid from the cyst, using a syringe with a fine needle. The presence of fluid in the lump generally confirms the diagnosis, and following aspiration the cyst will usually disappear. However, sometimes cysts recur and surgical removal may be necessary. Some women have a combination of cysts and thickened breast tissue referred to as benign fibrocystic disease.

This breast condition is characterised by lumpy breasts and is associated with pain and tenderness that may fluctuate with the menstrual cycle. The likelihood of this combination occurring increases with age, and is a common cause of non-cancerous lumps.

These problems often disappear after menopause, but may persist if you take MHT. Nipple discharge is considered to be any fluid leaking from your nipples, and is mostly caused by benign non-cancerous processes. While you're pregnant or breastfeeding, it is quite normal for discharge or milk to leak from your nipples; this will decrease and eventually stop after you have weaned your baby.

An unexpected nipple discharge may be milky, clear, yellow, green, brown or bloody, thick and sticky or thin and watery, depending on the cause. Nipple discharge can have a number of benign causes, including intraductal papilloma, mammary duct ectasia, abscesses, breast infection, excessive breast stimulation, fibrocystic breasts, galactorrhea, hormonal imbalance, injury or trauma to the breast, some medications, or prolactinoma, but also breast cancer. This condition causes redness, heat, lumpiness and pain in the affected breast tissue.

Most commonly, this is caused by an infection during breastfeeding, but it can occur at other times due to blockage and inflammation of the breast duct with an infection.

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Treatment with antibiotics needs to be started immediately to prevent an abscess forming. If an abscess forms, a small surgical procedure is required to drain it.


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Itchy nipples or breasts are common, uncomfortable and embarrassing problems that happen to many women. Itchiness is often due to contact dermatitis, related to the fabric type of your underwear, especially if the underwear is tight and you are in a humid environment. Itchiness can also be associated with hormonal changes, together with breast tenderness, during premenstrual days. Other causes include skin infection fungal or bacterial and some other skin disorders, such as seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis. There is usually a visible rash with these conditions.

Talk to your doctor about the best treatment for these problems. Persistent itchiness and itchy breasts that are accompanied by nipple discharge or a breast lump or lumps should be taken seriously and assessed by your doctor. Last updated 01 November — Last reviewed 30 October This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. Each breast contains 15 to 20 lobes of glandular tissue, arranged like the petals of a daisy.

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Fibrocystic breasts - Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic

The lobes are further divided into smaller lobules that produce milk for breast-feeding. Small tubes ducts conduct the milk to a reservoir that lies just beneath your nipple. The exact cause of fibrocystic breast changes isn't known, but experts suspect that reproductive hormones — especially estrogen — play a role.

Fluctuating hormone levels during your menstrual cycle can cause breast discomfort and areas of lumpy breast tissue that feel tender, sore and swollen. Fibrocystic breast changes tend to be more bothersome before your menstrual period, and the pain and lumpiness tends to clear up or lessen once your menstrual period begins. When examined under a microscope, fibrocystic breast tissue includes distinct components such as:. Mayo Clinic does not endorse companies or products. Advertising revenue supports our not-for-profit mission. This content does not have an English version. This content does not have an Arabic version.

Fibrocystic breast changes Fibrocystic breast changes lead to the development of fluid-filled round or oval sacs cysts and more prominent scar-like fibrous tissue, which can make breasts feel tender, lumpy or ropy. Breast anatomy Each breast contains 15 to 20 lobes of glandular tissue, arranged like the petals of a daisy.

What are benign breast conditions?

Request an Appointment at Mayo Clinic. Share on: Facebook Twitter. References Fibrocystic breast disease.

Breast Disease in Men

First consult. Accessed Jan.

Breast Cancer - Staging - Nucleus Health

Breast pain. Rochester, Minn. Fibrosis and simple cysts in the breast. American Cancer Society. Accessed Feb. Mastalgia breast pain.

Merck Manual Professional Version. Sabel MS. Overview of benign breast disease. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of a palpable breast mass. Understanding breast changes: A health guide for women.