Q: Is breast pain or tenderness necessarily indicative or cancer or a larger problem?
A: Breast pain and breast cancer are unrelated. If breast pain was associated with cancer, it would bring patients to the physician earlier in their course of the disease. In a clinical exam, we usually look for a slow-growing, monotonous, painless lump. Pain generally indicates fibrocystic and fibroglandular changes, which all women experience sometime in their life. The important question is: Is there a lump whether pain is found or not? Mammographic lesions that represent malignancies also will be painless. If you do find a painless lump, be sure to see your physician. I would mention that fibrocystic breast pain is not a disease and should be termed a "fibrocystic condition" or "fibrocystic changes" as all women have experienced some cystic change and pain as a normal process of life. Symptomatic relief of the pain can be given through nurse education programs.
-- Dr. Maurice S. Rawlings Jr.,
MaryEllen Locher Breast Center; member,
Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society
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