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DEAR MAYO CLINIC: A mammogram showed a lump in my breast, and my doctor said it's benign breast disease. I'm glad it's not cancer, but I'm still worried. What does this mean? Does it increase my risk of getting breast cancer in the future?
ANSWER: Changes to your breasts can cause a lot of worry. This is understandable. As you discovered, though, not all breast changes are a result of breast cancer.
Any breast symptoms, such as a breast lump, nipple discharge or breast pain, should be evaluated by a medical professional. If the symptoms are diagnosed as benign, it means they are not cancer. Noncancerous breast symptoms are known as benign breast disease.
Some cases of benign breast disease are discovered during a screening mammogram. Some are felt at home. For any lump or symptoms felt at home, it's recommended that you seek a thorough examination with a health care professional. If there are findings on a mammogram, your health care team will decide if additional imaging is required. This could include another mammogram to get more images of the spot and an ultrasound of the breast. Often, we can determine whether the cause is benign or not through imaging alone. Sometimes a biopsy may be necessary.
The good news is that benign breast disease is not cancer. However, some benign breast disease needs treatment and can increase the risk of developing breast cancer in the future. Ask your health care professional which type of benign breast disease you have and if it increases your personal risk.
If you have a history of cancer or other concerns, consider seeking out a specialist at a breast care center.
Here are a few of the most common types of benign breast disease:
All breast changes should be discussed with your health care team. In addition, an annual physical exam is a good way to review your risk for breast cancer and discuss an appropriate screening schedule for you. — Dr. Caroline Clune, M.D., Primary Care Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic Health System, La Crosse, Wisconsin
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