Benign Breast Diseases That May Resemble Breast Cancer

Not all breast lumps necessarily indicate breast cancer. There are benign (non-cancerous) changes in the breast tissue that mimic breast cancer and its symptoms. Some benign breast conditions may also resemble breast cancer on mammograms, MRIs, and ultrasound tests.

To understand the difference between cancerous and benign lumps, here’s what you should know about the major symptoms of breast cancer. 

Symptoms of Breast Cancer 

Some characteristics common to breast cancer are as follows:

  • A firm mass or lump under the breast tissue
  • A lump that feels hard and pebbly
  • Swelling, redness, or other visible changes in the breast
  • A lump or swelling in your underarm

Symptoms and Signs of Breast Cancer on an Exam/ Imaging Studies

  1. Mammogram Findings 
    Although mammograms are the best way to detect breast cancer, they still have limits and aren’t 100% accurate. Mammograms are known to have a sensitivity of 60% to 90%. This indicates that if a cancerous tumor is present, 60% to 90% of the time, the mammogram will detect it. It has an overall specificity of 93%, which means that 7% of the time when a mammogram detects cancer, it may turn out to be a benign breast disease instead. If the area looks suspicious, it may need biopsy.
  2. Breast Ultrasound Findings 
    Ultrasound is used to target a certain area of concern found on mammogram or exam. It helps tell the difference between fluid filled cysts and solid masses.
  3. Breast MRI Findings 
    Breast MRIs are used for women at higher risk of getting breast cancer or who currently have breast cancer.  While MRI findings have a high chance of spotting cancer, there is a slight possibility of benign changes mimicking cancer on MRI findings.    
  4. Breast Biopsy 
    Breast cancer can’t be diagnosed without a biopsy. The choice of biopsy type to use depends on how suspicious it is, size, location, how many tumors there are, and other medical problems.

Not all breast changes are cancer:
1. Fibrosis and cysts
-Firmness in the connective tissue of the breast and fluid-filled sacs.

2. Benign breast masses
-Fibroadenoma
-Atypical ductal hyperplasia
-Intraductal papilloma

3. Mastitis and Abscesses
-Breast infection


For more information on breast cancer and its treatment, contact us.

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Dr. Madhu Prasad, M.D., FACS

Dr. Madhu Prasad has over 30+ years of experience working as a general surgeon and surgical oncologist and providing the highest level of care in Anchorage, Alaska. He believes in providing quality care to patients and their families. Inspired by compassion and humanism, Dr. Prasad and his team work for the well-being of their patients.

Alaska Cancer Treatment Center

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