Aberrations of Normal Development and Involution of the breast
This section on the symptoms and signs of breast cancer would be incomplete without a brief mention of the more common but benign conditions of the breast. In the course of investigation for breast cancer, these would be diagnosed.
Over her lifetime, a woman can encounter a broad variety of breast conditions. These include normal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle as well as several types of benign lumps. It is only when the aberrations of normal development and involution (aging) are more pronounced that a “disease” state is reached and you complain of symptoms. What they have in common is that they are not cancer. Even for breast lumps that require a biopsy, some 80-90% prove to be benign.
In the early reproductive period (about 15-25 years), owing to the changes in the different tissues of the breast, one may develop discrete lumps such as fibroadenoma. This condition may be multiple or a single lump can grow to a very large size. The breast may also “enlarge” more than normal (juvenile hypertrophy).
In the mature reproductive period (about 25-40 years), there may be exaggerated hormonal effects resulting in cyclical breast pain, lumpiness of the breast which may be localised and discrete.
In the involution period (about 35–55 years), depending again on which tissues are affected, cysts (fluid filled sacs) may develop, duct dilatation, periductal fibrosis and inflammation may occur. There may also be changes at the cellular level either with increased proliferation or atypical looking cells.