Many women experience at some point in their life some discomfort with their breasts. We’ve all been taught about the importance of self-exam and regular check ups although some of us are more reticent to do so than others. Massage therapists have the palpation skills to feel for normal and abnormal breast tissue.
Most of us are familiar with the soreness or swelling that occurs with our menstrual cycle, but there are some other common perhaps lesser-known conditions that can cause breast discomfort or pain.
The Following is a list of common benign breast conditions:
Fibroadinosis: Refers to an overgrowth of the structural connective tissues of an organ (also known as the stromal cells). Upon palpation, it feels like a discrete nodular area without clear edges. It is believed that fibroadinosis is caused by hormones.
Fibroadinoma: Refers to an overgrowth of lobules. Lobules are considered the basic functional unit of breast tissue. Firboadinomas have a distinct round shape, they feels firm and are described as a round benign tumor. What causes these tumors is unknown but there is evidence to suggest a connection to increase estrogen levels.
Sclerosing Adenosis: Characterized by enlargement of lobules so that they contain more alveoli than usual. The alveolus is the part of the lobule that produces milk in mammals. The direct cause is unknown although it is thought to be a combination of abnormal involution (the shrinkage of an organ when inactive) and abnormal proliferators (cells that are reproducing rapidly).
Cysts: Small cysts are a normal part of lobular involution. Although the cause is unknown in some cases one of these cysts develops larger than normal. It represents some or all of a lobule that has undergone failed involution. Once thought to be precancerous cysts are now understood to no longer be a cancer risk.
Duct Ectasia: Unknown once again in origin, this condition is an inflammation of a major duct. There is a theory suggesting that due to an infection the duct weakens and does not clear itself of fluid accumulation. A shortening of the duct causes it to pull on the nipple, which can further lead to discharge, burning pain, or possibly the presence of a small abscess.
Mastitis: Inflammation of the breast tissue. This is common and is usually associated with a bacterial infection developing from breastfeeding. An infection establishes when the bacteria gains access to the ducts. It is usually painful accompanied by local inflammation, tenderness and swelling.
Non-Lactating Mastitis: This form is much less common but it can occur. Its cause is not known but it could be due to a progression of duct ectasia, trauma or surgery, compromised immunity or a nearby infection.
Breast Abscess: An encapsulated collection of pus. Abscesses are often the by-products of either form of mastitis; therefore the cause of an abscess would be the same as those for mastitis. It is usually a hard lump, tender to the touch with local inflammation and swelling.