Frequently Asked Questions
A cyst is a sac containing fluid. These may be very small and cause no symptoms at all or they may be large and present as a painful lump that has appeared suddenly. In the majority of cases cysts are benign ( not cancerous) but an ultrasound scan is necessary in all cases.
They may also be detected incidentally when the breast is scanned for some other reason.
Pain in the breast is called mastalgia. In most women it is related to the menstrual cycle, getting worse just before a period and easing or resolving completely after the onset of the period. This pattern is called cyclical mastalgia. In a large number of women with this pattern of pain, there is a deficiency of a fatty acid called Gamoleneic Acid. This makes the breast more sensitive to the effects of the female hormone oestrogen. As a result, the changes in the breast are exaggerated.
It is very useful to keep a chart of the mentrual cycle and the days the breasts get painful and the days the pain resolves. Some breast units will be able to provide you with these charts to help you keep an account of your symptoms. Breast pain can also be referred from the neck or shoulder or could be due to an ill fitting bra.
Supplementing the fatty acid Gamoleneic acid in the dose of 240mgs daily, either by taking Oil of Evening Primrose or Starflower oil, will reduce the sensitivity and the pain. In addition to this one may take 200 to 400mg of Ibuprofen every 6 or 8 hours as required.
It is important to wear a bra that fits perfectly. A bra that is too large or too small will make the breasts sore. Underwired bras make the pain worse and are best avoided when the breasts are painful. Support or sport bras are the best at such times. If the pain is due to other causes, these will need treating appropriately.
Fibrocystic disease is the medical term given to a condition characterised by multiple lumps in the breast due to cysts. These cysts are associated with scarring within the breast. Generally this is referred to as 'lumpy breasts'. It is very common in women of childbearing age and tends to largely disappear with the onset of menopause.
A Fibroadenoma is a benign lump that may present as a smooth round lump of varying sizes. Usually it is the size of a pea or a marble. It can grow to very large sizes. The lump moves from one part of the breast to another when felt and hence is often called a "breast mouse".
Rarely will a fibroadenoma become malignant. In such cases it will show an increase in size quite rapidly. Majority of the fibroadenomas that slowly increase in size will not have turned malignant.
As with all lumps it should be assessed by a specialist. He/she will then ask for an ultrasound scan. If you are 35 years of age or older, a mammogram will also be done. Most units will carry out a biopsy of the lump in patients 25 years or older. This biopsy may be done with a needle and syringe ( examination of cells only and this is called cytology) or with a cutting needle fired by a gun like machine ( this is called a needle core biopsy and examines a sliver of tissue rather than cells alone).
When the lump is confirmed benign by biopsy and is what the specialist and radiologist believe it to be, it may be left alone. If it is large or is growing in size then it is wise to remove it.
Breast cancer very rarely presents with pain and then only when there is a lump. It is believed that only 4% of breast cancers will cause pain.