Ask an Expert: Benign breast lumps and breast cancer risk

Q. I recently had a benign breast lump removed. It turned out to be a “fibroadenoma,” and my doctor said it was totally benign. Still, I’m worried – does this mean I’m at an increased risk of breast cancer?

Answer from the expert staff of breast cancer research at the Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center at Providence Portland Medical Center:

Probably not. The great majority of benign breast lumps do not increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

Lumps that do increase breast cancer risk include those showing evidence of excessive cell growth, called hyperplasia; abnormal cell growth, called dysplasia; or both, a condition called atypical hyperplasia.

About 25 percent of benign breast lumps show signs of hyperplasia. According to the National Cancer Institute, women who have a breast lump with evidence of hyperplasia have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer.

About 5 percent of benign breast lumps show evidence of atypical hyperplasia. According to the National Cancer Institute, women who have a breast lump showing atypical hyperplasia have a moderately increased risk of breast cancer.

The other 70 percent of benign breast lumps show no signs of abnormality or excessive cell growth. These lumps are very common, and are not associated with any increased risk of breast cancer.

June 2002

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