Breast Disease

Breast Disease: An Overview Image

When people think of breast disease, cancer is usually the first thing that comes to mind. However, other types of breast disease exist; the appearance of a lump doesn’t always indicate breast cancer. Learn about some other types of breast disease, namely fibroadenoma, fibrocystic breast disease, gynecomastia and mastitis.


Fibroadenoma is type of breast growth commonly found in young women in their 20s. A fibroadenoma develops when breast tissue grows over a lobule (milk-producing gland), forming a solid lump. Fibroadenomas appear to be linked to estrogen levels, as they generally grow during menstruation and pregnancy and shrink after menopause. Fibroadenomas are benign, although some types may slightly increase the risk of breast disease.

Fibrocystic Breast Disease

This disease is characterized by the presence of thick breast tissue, cysts and enlarged breast lobules. Like fibroadenoma, fibrocystic breast disease appears to be associated with hormone levels. Cysts associated with this disease can become quite painful. Treatment may involve draining them, but the cysts may reappear. Fibrocystic breast disease is a benign condition. If the overgrowth of cell tissue becomes abnormal, however, it can slightly increase the risk of breast disease.


Not all breast diseases are confined to women. Adolescent males can develop a condition called “gynecomastia,” which causes excessive breast growth. This condition, caused by an imbalance in estrogen and testosterone levels, is usually temporary and may disappear on its own. Medication is sometimes necessary to correct the hormone imbalance, while other cases require surgical treatment. Men can also develop other breast diseases–including breast cancer–although incidence rates are much lower among males than among females.


Mastitis, a type of breast infection common among breastfeeding women, occurs when bacteria enters the breast through the nipple, through either a small crack in the skin or the opening of the milk ducts. This type of infection can be very painful, resulting in breast swelling and redness, fever and fatigue. Mastitis usually occurs within the first few weeks of breastfeeding and is rare outside of lactation. Treatment generally involves antibiotics and altered breastfeeding techniques. You can continue breastfeeding while you have mastitis.

If you notice any lumps or changes in your breast, contact your doctor. A medical professional should examine every instance of a breast lump to rule out the possibility of breast cancer.


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Mayo Clinic. (2008). Gynecomastia (enlarged breasts in men). Retrieved November 17, 2010, from

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2000). Fibrocystic breast changes. Retrieved November 16, 2010, from

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.) Breast infection. Retrieved November 17, 2010, from