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July 21, 2005

Benign Breast Lumps Linked To Cancer

Topics: Medicine

Breast tumor.jpg
[Breast lesions can be picked up by scans (image-BBC News)]

A new study reveals that women who have certain types of benign breast disease have a much greater risk for breast cancer. While the first sign may be a lump in the breast, often the lump is actually not cancerous, which doctors previously had thought meant there was no increased future risk of a malignant tumor. This article suggests that you might not want to count on that axiom.

- BBC News

(...) Identifying and closely monitoring these women could help save lives, the Mayo Clinic team believe.

(...) Although most non-cancerous breast lumps do not increase future risk of breast cancer, they found faster growing and more abnormal types did.

(...) This finding, in the New England Journal of Medicine, held even if there was no family history of breast cancer.

(...) The only way to tell for sure whether or not a lump is cancerous is to take a sample of cells, called a biopsy, and examine this in the lab.

(...) Women with proliferative or atypical benign tumour samples were more likely to have developed breast cancer than those who had non-proliferative benign breast lumps.

(...) According to the study, six out of 100 women with a non-proliferative benign breast lump would develop cancer within 15 years, compared to 10 out of 100 women with proliferative benign breast lumps and 19 out of 100 women with atypical benign breast lumps.

Unfortunately, it has been shown that the manner of clinical presentation, investigation and treatment of women, up to the present, has had more to do with regional factors than with some standard that's been universally followed. These impact disease patterns and their presentation (e.g. socioeconomic/educational status and cultural/religious beliefs) and the availability of specialist health care personnel and facilities.

The differential diagnoses of a breast lump include breast cancer, benign solid and cystic lumps and inflammatory conditions. The likelihood of a diagnosis relates more to geographical area, age, ethnic origin, family history of breast cancer, presence of high-risk pathology, endemic infection, smoking, pregnancy and lactation history, puerperal care and health education. Investigations and treatments vary more according to the availability of expertise and facilities (e.g. combined diagnostic clinic staffed by breast surgeon and radiologist; breast radiologist to carry out image-guided diagnostic and therapeutic procedures).

The message here? Women need to take charge of their health and don't allow their health to be at the mercy of where they happen to be, who they happen to see, and what their socioeconomic or educational status happens to be. Their lives may depend on their insistance on quality and appropriate diagnostic procedures.

Posted by Hyscience at July 21, 2005 10:44 AM

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