Breast Health & Disease

Breasts play many roles women's lives. They give women their unique shapes. They provide sexual pleasure. They deliver life-sustaining milk to their babies.

Some women are completely comfortable with their breasts, others aren't. They worry that their breasts are too big or too small, sit too high or hang too low, are lopsided, or aren't as firm as they once were. Regardless of size or shape, all women want healthy breasts for a lifetime.

Five ways to keep breasts healthy include maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, limiting alcohol (no more than one drink a day), not smoking, and regularly performing breast self-exams.

Among younger women, common breast problems include fibrocystic breast disease, a noncancerous condition characterized by breast pain, cysts, and lumps); and fibroadenomas, small bumps of fibrous and glandular tissue that can be painful.

For older women, the concern is more likely to be breast cancer. About 1 in 8 (12%) of women living in the United States will develop breast cancer over the course of their lifetimes. Each year, about 300,000 American women are diagnosed with some form of breast cancer, and about 40,000 die of it.

Breast cancer can often be successfully treated, especially if it is detected early. That's why women are urged to check their breasts at home, and to have routine mammograms beginning at age 50 (or earlier for women at high risk for developing breast cancer).

Breast Health & Disease Articles

Mammography

Mammography is a series of X-rays that shows images of the soft tissues of the breast. It is a valuable screening procedure that can detect breast cancer early, as long as two years before a lump can be felt. For women ages 50 to 74 with an average risk of breast cancer, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends mammography once every 2 years. Other medical societies and organizations recommend yearly mammograms. (Locked) More »

Stereotactic Biopsy of the Breast

Stereotactic biopsy of the breast is a special type of large core needle biopsy. It is one method of guiding the biopsy needle to the desired location in the breast. Core needle biopsy can also be guided by ultrasound or by the standard x-ray techniques used in mammography. Large core needle biopsy is often the diagnostic method of choice to evaluate abnormalities that are visible on a mammogram but cannot easily be felt by hand. Core needle biopsy may not be suitable for women who have: An irregularity close to the chest wall, the nipple, or the surface of the breast Certain types of calcium deposits in the area of concern Very small breasts In these situations, accurate results from a core needle biopsy may not be possible. Instead, your doctor may recommend a surgical biopsy. (Locked) More »

Excisional Biopsy of the Breast

In an excisional biopsy of the breast, the surgeon makes an incision in the skin and removes all or part of the abnormal tissue for examination under a microscope. Unlike needle biopsies, a surgical biopsy leaves a visible scar on the breast and sometimes causes a noticeable change in the breast's shape. It's a good idea to discuss the placement and length of the incision with your surgeon beforehand. Also ask your surgeon about scarring and the possibility of changes to your breast shape and size after healing, as well as the choice between local anesthesia and general anesthesia. (Locked) More »

Wire Localization Biopsy of the Breast

A wire localization biopsy is a type of surgical biopsy. Sometimes an abnormal area will be seen on the mammogram that clearly should be tested for cancer or completely removed from the breast, but this area is not easily felt as a lump on examination. The mammography department can help your surgeon to find the area more easily by using a technique called "wire localization." In this technique, the radiologists (who have had the benefit of seeing the abnormal area on your mammograms) mark the abnormality with a wire that is inserted under your skin into the area of breast that is causing concern. Right afterward, the surgeon can meet you in the operating room and can use the wire to find the abnormal spot in your breast so that he or she can remove it. For a surgical biopsy, the surgeon makes an incision in the skin and removes all or part of the abnormal tissue for examination under a microscope. Unlike needle biopsies, a surgical biopsy leaves a visible scar on the breast and sometimes causes a noticeable change in the breast's shape. It's a good idea to discuss the placement and length of the incision with your surgeon beforehand. Also ask your surgeon about scarring and the possibility of changes to your breast shape and size after healing, as well as the choice between local anesthesia and general anesthesia. (Locked) More »

Breast Ultrasound

Ultrasound uses sound waves instead of radiation to generate snapshots or moving pictures of structures inside the body. A breast ultrasound can indicate whether a breast lump is caused by a fluid-filled cyst or a solid mass, such as cancer. (Locked) More »

Fine-Needle Aspiration (FNA) of the breast

A doctor can do fine needle aspiration in the office by inserting a slender needle into the area of concern and drawing out (aspirating) either fluid from a cyst or a small amount of tissue from a solid mass. Cells from a mass, and sometimes fluid from a cyst, is then sent for microscopic evaluation to determine whether cancer is present. Fine needle aspiration is most commonly used to drain a breast cyst that feels tender or sore. If the cyst is a simple cyst (one that looks clear in an ultrasound exam) and isn't tender, it doesn't require aspiration. (Locked) More »

Cirrhosis

No body organ performs a wider variety of essential jobs than the liver. It: Produces essential proteins that help blood to clot Removes or neutralizes poisons, drugs and alcohol Manufactures bile that helps the body to absorb fats and cholesterol Helps to maintain normal blood sugar levels Regulates several hormones Cirrhosis is a disease in which normal liver cells are replaced by scar tissue, which interferes with all of these important functions. In extreme cases, the damage is so severe that the only solution is a liver transplant. (Locked) More »