COVID-19: For information related to COVID-19 (formerly referred to as “novel coronavirus"), visit

VCU Massey Cancer Center


Benign breast conditions and symptoms

There are a number of benign (noncancerous) conditions, disorders and symptoms that can affect the breast. Some of these conditions can cause discomfort or pain and need treatment, while others do not. Many benign breast conditions mimic the symptoms of breast cancer and need tests, and sometimes a biopsy, for diagnosis. If you need a biopsy, try not to panic. Most biopsy results do not show cancer. Nearly 80 percent of all breast lumps are benign.

VCU Massey Cancer Center’s breast specialists are committed to providing the best breast care. We will work together to offer you the most current technologies and treatment available for any breast condition.

Benign breast conditions include the following:

Fibrocystic changes
Fibrocystic changes, also known as fibrocystic breast disease, refers to a condition in which the breasts feel lumpy and is likely due to hormone changes during the menstrual cycle. Fibrocystic breasts aren’t harmful or dangerous, but may be bothersome or uncomfortable

Benign tumors, such as fibroadenoma and phyllodes

  • A fibroadenoma is felt as a lump in the breast tissue that moves around when touched and can sometimes be painful, though the pain is rarely severe. Treatment can vary from observation to surgical removal or freezing. Removal is typically recommended if a lump is more than 2 cm in size, particularly if it is enlarging. If it is small and not causing pain, it may be managed with periodic examinations or ultrasound to track the size over time.
  • A phyllodes tumor is rare. While usually benign, about 10 percent of phyllodes tumors are malignant and can spread. When a needle biopsy or rapid growth indicates that malignancy could be the case, surgical removal is recommended.

Galactorrhea refers to milky fluid discharging from the nipple when not associated with pregnancy or nursing.

Infections of the breast, such as mastitis and abscesses

Infection of the breast can cause severe pain, redness of the skin, fever and flu-like symptoms.

  • Mastitis is a diffuse infection of the breast tissue and can occur after delivering a baby, whether or not the woman is breastfeeding. It can also occur in women who are not post-partum.
  • An abscess is a localized infection that is treated with antibiotics and usually must be drained so the breast can heal. Since an abscess is often caused by blocked milk ducts, it may be recommended to remove the ducts behind the nipple to prevent recurrence.
Find a Clinical Trial
View graphic versionView graphic version