Breast changes. Early treatment vital.

All women should know their breasts and report any unusual changes promptly to their doctor. Early detection of breast cancer results in a complete cure for most affected women.

See your GP if you have any of these: 

  • any lump, lumpiness or thickening
  • any nipple changes or discharge
  • any changes in the skin over the breast
  • a change in shape or size of the breast
  • persistent pain

What causes breast changes?

Many women simply have lumpy breasts. Any change in the breast may be due to:

  • Female hormones. Hormones can cause lumpy, tender breasts at different times in the month e.g. the contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
  • Fibroadenoma. A smooth, firm breast lump, more common in young women. It is not usually tender and is harmless.
  • Breast cyst. A cyst is a smooth, fluid-filled sac, which is often painful. Cysts are common from ages 35-50 and from HRT.
  • Breast cancer. Less than 5% of breast changes are caused by cancer. Breast cancer is more common in older women and those with a strong family history. It is not usually tender and may feel hard and irregular.

What does the doctor do?

Your doctor will examine your breasts and arrange further tests if required, such as:

  • Mammogram. This low dose breast X-ray can pick up very small breast cancers.
  • Ultrasound. This test uses sound waves to find any lumps. It is more accurate than mammograms under the age of 35.
  • Biopsy. Your doctor may refer you to a breast specialist for a 'fine needle aspiration biopsy' or a 'core biopsy'. This involves inserting a needle into the breast and taking a sample of cells. Sometimes an operation to remove a suspicious area is needed under a general anaesthetic.

For more information speak to your doctor or visit the National Breast Cancer Centre website at

Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.

Source: Spring 2000 Edition | Page 3

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