Benign Mammogram Findings
Benign is a great word. It has a silent ‘g.’ It looks so pretty in cursive. But the best thing about that word is what it means: no harm will come. A benign tumor is one that’s not cancer. A benign change in breast tissue means that, even though there is something apart from normal breast tissue, it’s not something that’s going to hurt you. Benign means that something turns out to be nothing. What a relief! Women come in for mammograms for two reasons: for an annual screening to make sure all is well, or for a diagnostic mammogram because of a breast symptom. If you’re reading up on mammography, it can seem like there’s too much potential for bad news. But know that benign changes can be seen in women who come in for screening and in women who come in with a symptom. We may have to do a few extra things to make sure it’s benign, perhaps extra mammographic views or ultrasound, but a benign finding means you can go back to routine screening and routine worrying – no extra anxiety! So today, we’re going to talk about good news – benign findings. Here’s a short list of benign findings we commonly find or evaluate in the breast. Cysts: fluid-filled sacs within the breast. These are sometimes found on your montlhy breast exams, by your doctor’s exam or by a finding on a mammogram. These can be felt if large enough, usually as a discrete lump that moves around freely. They may on occasion be painful or cause discomfort with bras or sleep position. They may go away on their own. Breast ultrasound is the best way of showing the fluid within the cyst. Benign calcifications: small calcium deposits scattered throughout breast tissue, which show up as white flecks on a mammogram. Small, scattered and stable mammographically are important findings to call calcifications benign. Microcalcifications are findings we look for on every mammogram, and based on their appearance and whether they are changing we can determine if they are benign or need further work up. Vascular Calcifications: calcification in the wall of a blood vessel can show up on a mammogram. They have a classic look with a “train track” appearance. Vascular calcifications can be related to cardiovascular dieseae, aging, diabetes or in some women related to prior breastfeeding. They are not associated with cancer or an increased risk of breast cancer, but may be a marker of other vessel disease, like in the heart. Fibroadenoma: benign nodules composed of fibrous and glandular tissue. These nodules often are found in younger patients. They can be found by palpation, mammography or ultrasound. If a woman has one fibroadenoma they may have or develop additional fibradenomas. Radiologists can suggest the diagnosis if the nodule has a classic appearance on imaging and remains stable. Definitive diagnosis though may require biopsy. Lymph Node: Yes, we can have lymph nodes in our breast tissue and under our arms (remember breast tissue can go all the way up to the armpit). Sometimes lymph nodes will show up on a mammogram. An ultrasound may be necessary to further evaluate if the node is new or changed.