by Robert Ripley, MD
Wickenburg Community Hospital General Surgeon
Breast and lung cancer are the most common causes of cancer deaths in American women. About 12% of women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. Fortunately, when breast cancer is caught early it can be successfully treated. Although breast cancer is not preventable, a low fat, high-fiber diet coupled with regular exercise may lower risk.
Most breast lumps are benign. In young women a common cause of a lump is a fibro adenoma. It is firm and moveable with no tenderness. In women 35 to 50 years old, fibrocystic changes are the most common cause of a breast lump. The cause of this problem is the breast tissue reacting to varying levels of estrogen and progesterone. Multiple cysts and fibrous tissue can form causing a lumpy or granular feel to the breast tissue.
Breast cancer is usually hard, uneven, non-mobile, and painless. The key to early detection is periodic exams, mammograms, and self-examination. A small mass seen on x-ray or found on exam can often be biopsied under local anesthesia in the office or x-ray suite. When cancer is detected the treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. The age of the patient and the stage of her cancer (stage is determined by the size of the cancer, spread to regional lymph nodes, and spread to other organs) helps determine the recommendations for treatment.
If you note any changes in your breasts don’t hesitate to have a check-up with your primary care provider.