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Disorders of the Breast
UNC School of Medicine
Obstetrics and Gynecology Clerkship
Case Based Seminar Series
Objectives for Disorders of the Breast
 Describe the symptoms and physical examination
findings of benign or malignant conditions of the breast
 Demonstrate the performance of a clinical breast
 Discuss the steps in evaluation of common breast
complaints: mastalgia, mass, nipple discharge
 Discuss the initial management options for benign and
malignant conditions of the breast
Breast Anatomy
 Primarily adipose tissue, glandular tissue, and
suspensory ligaments
 Composed of 15-25 radially arranged lobes of
parenchyma, each associated with a major lactiferous
 Each major duct extends from the nipple to terminate
in a “terminal duct-lobular unit” via branching ducts of
diminishing caliber
Breast Anatomy
Ruan, W, Kleinberg, DL. Endocrinology 1999; 140:5075. Copyright © 1999 The Endocrine Society.
Evaluation: History
 History:
Change in general appearance of breast (size, symmetry)
New or persistent skin changes
New nipple inversion
Breast pain (cyclic vs. noncyclic, duration, location in breast)
Breast mass (how it was discovered, duration, change in size, location)
Relationship of mass to menstrual cycles
Nipple discharge (unilateral vs. bilateral, color)
Medications (e.g. hormones)
Risk factors for breast cancer
Evaluation: History
 Risk Factors vs. Protective Factors
Risk Factors
Protective factors
1˚ relative with breast or ovarian cancer
Personal history of breast disease
Recreational exercise
Age > 70 yrs
Postmenopause BMI < 23
Age at menarche < 12 yrs
Oophorectomy at < 35 yrs
Nulliparous or age at first birth > 30 yrs
Never breastfed
Age at menopause > 55 yrs
Use of OCP’s
HRT (estrogen + progestin)
Radiation exposure to chest
Evaluation: Physical Exam
 Clinical Breast Exam:
 Inspect (relaxed, arms raised, hands on hips)
 Breast symmetry
 Skin changes (dimpling, retraction, edema, ulceration)
 Nipples (symmetry, inversion/retraction, discharge)
 Palapation (breasts, axillae, entire chest wall)
 Pain
 Masses
 Regional lymph nodes (Axillary and Supraclavicular)
 Documentation
“Clock” system
Location of concern and abnormality
Distance from areola
Size of mass
Evaluation: Physical Exam
 Clinical Breast Exam:
Position the patient in the
direction of palpation for the
Use pads of the index, third,
and fourth fingers (inset)
make small circular motions
Make three circles with the finger
pads, increasing the level of
pressure (subcutaneous, mid-level,
and down to the chest wall) with
each circle
Sanslow, D, et. al. Clinical breast examination” practical recommendations for optimizing performance and reporting. CA Cancer J Clin.
2004 Nov-Dec; 54(6): 327-44
Benign vs. Malignant
Chief Complaint
Breast mass
Nipple discharge
Benign Characteristics
Malignant Characteristics
Multiple lesions
Single lesion
Well circumscribed border
Irregular borders
Bloody, Clear, or Colored
Skin changes
Breast Disease
 Benign
 Nonproliferative
Fibrocystic changes
Simple cysts
Lactational adenoma
 Hyperplasia without atypia
 Epithelial hyperplasia
 Sclerosing adenosis
 Intraductal papillomas
 Hyperplasia with atypia
 Malignant
Ductal carcinoma
Lobular carcinoma
Tubular carcinoma
Mucinous carcinoma
Micropapillary carcinoma
Metaplastic carcinoma
Inflammatory carcinoma
Mastalgia: Incidence
 Approximately 45% of women have mild breast pain,
and 21% have severe breast pain in their lifetime
 Breast cancer is found in 1.2 – 6.7% of women
presenting with breast pain
Mastalgia: Etiology
 Differential Diagnosis:
 Cyclic
 Cyclic mastalgia
 Fibrocystic disease
 Non-cyclic
Large pendulous breasts
Diet, lifestyle
Hormone replacement therapy
Ductal ectasia
Inflammatory breast cancer
 Extramammary (non-breast) pain
Mastalgia: Evaluation
 History
Unilateral vs. bilateral
Cyclic vs. noncyclic
Systemic or local symptoms (e.g. erythema, fever)
History of trauma
 Clinical breast exam
 Evaluation
 Ultrasound
 Mammogram
Mastalgia: Evaluation
 Cyclic mastalgia
 Normal hormonal changes
 Particularly luteal phase of menstrual cycle
 Fibrocystic disease
 Increased fibrous or cystic tissue
 Pendulous breasts
 Stretching of Cooper’s ligaments
Mastalgia: Fibrocystic Disease
 Fibrocystic disease
 Premenopausal women
 Premenstrual breast swelling/tenderness
 Nodules/masses/lumps related to dense breast tissue or cysts
 Fibrous tissue
 Cystically dilated ducts
 + Calcifications
 + Ductal hyperplasia
Mastalgia: Management
 Treatment:
 Lifestyle
 Eliminate caffeine
 Low fat diet
 Symptomatic
 Support garments (well-fitting, supportive bra, sports bra)
 Compresses
 Medication
OCP’s, Progestogens
GnRH agonists
Tamoxifen - IF severe mastalgia
Mastalgia: Mastitis
 Presentation
Usually seen in breastfeeding mothers
Unilateral, swollen, wedge-shaped area of breast
Pain, redness, induration (hardening)
Systemic symptoms (high fever, malaise, chills)
 Treatment
 Rest, fluids
 Dicloxicllin 500mg QID x 10-14d
 Continue frequent breast feeding
Mastalgia: Inflammatory Breast Cancer
 Inflammatory breast cancer
 Peau d’orange-dimpling of involved skin due to
retraction caused by lymphatic involvement and
 Associated erythema
 Cellulitis may mimic inflammatory carcinoma
Breast Mass: Etiology
 More than 90% of palpable breast masses in women
in their 20’s to early 50’s are benign
 Differential Diagnosis:
Fibrocystic changes
Fat necrosis
Phyllodes tumor
Intraductal papilloma
Breast cancer
Breast Mass: Evaluation
 History
How it was discovered
Change in size
Relationship of mass to menstrual cycles
 Clinical breast exam
Breast Mass: Fibroadenoma
 Fibroadenoma
 Solitary, firm, rubbery, mobile mass
 Women < 30 yrs
 Slow growing (? hormonally mediated)
Fibroadenoma gross specimen
 Firm, tan, lobulated
 Well circumscribed mass
 Variable size
Breast Mass: Intraductal Papilloma
 Intraductal papilloma
 Unilateral bloody nipple discharge
 Sub-areolar intraductal mass
Intraductal papillary neoplasm
with fibrovascular cores lined
by benign ductal and
myoepithelial cells
Breast Mass: Fat Necrosis
 Fat Necrosis
Caused by trauma
Tender, firm mass with indistinct borders
May appear suspicious on physical exam
Benign breast calcification seen on mammography
Fat necrosis manifesting as a
spiculated mass
Densely calcified 3-cm area of fat
necrosis 2 years after blunt
trauma to the breast.
Breast Mass: Evaluation
 Initial evaluation
 < 30 yr – Diagnostic ultrasound + Diagnostic mammogram
 > 30 yr – Diagnostic mammogram
 Further evaluation
 Simple cyst
 Symptomatic – Aspirate
 Asymptomatic – Observe for 2-4 months
 Complicated cyst – Ultrasound-guided aspiration
 Solid mass – Core needle biopsy (CNB) or Excision
 No specific findings – Re-examine after two cycles
Breast Ultrasound
Breast Cancer
Nipple Discharge: Etiology
 Etiology
 Lactation
 Physiologic nipple discharge
Medication related
Neurogenic stimulation
 Pathologic
 Intraductal papilloma
 Ductal ectasia
Nipple Discharge: Evaluation
 History
Unilateral vs. bilateral
Spontaneous vs. provoked discharge
Appearance of discharge
Medications (e.g. antipsychotics, antidepressants)
History of trauma
History of amenorrhea
History of hypogonadism (e.g. hot flashes, vaginal dryness)
 Clinical breast exam
 Attempt to elicit discharge, identify involved duct(s)
 Evaluate discharge for gross blood or guaiac positivity
Nipple Discharge: Evaluation
 Initial evaluation:
 Breast ultrasound
 Mammogram
 IF woman > 30 yrs
 Multiductal discharge
 UPT, Prolactin, TSH
 Further evaluation:
 Ductography
 Ductoscopy
Nipple Discharge: Management
 Management
 Physiologic nipple discharge
 Directed at underlying cause
 Pathologic nipple discharge
 Refer to surgeon
 Terminal duct excision
 Central (total) terminal duct excision
 Resection of intraductal papilloma
Malignant Breast Disease
 Pathologic finding on CNB or excision biopsy
 Invasive carcinoma
 Refer to surgical oncologist
 Treatment modalities:
Hormonal therapy
Bottom Line Concepts
 It is important to evaluate breast complaints thoroughly to ensure that breast
cancers, as well as benign breast lesions, are diagnosed and treated promptly.
 Evaluation of a woman presenting with a breast complaints requires careful
assessment of symptoms and risk factors for developing breast cancer.
 The clinical breast exam include inspection and palpation of the breast tissue,
chest wall, and regional lymph nodes. Documentation should included both
positive and negative findings.
 Women with breast problems can present with any combination of symptoms
including breast mass or thickening, breast pain, nipple discharge, or skin
 Typically, women presenting with a suspicious breast mass who are > 30 yrs
should receive a diagnostic mammogram, whereas women younger than 30
should receive a diagnostic ultrasound.
 Negative imaging should not stop further investigation is a suspicious lump is
felt on clinical exam.
 Masses that are solid on ultrasound imaging require biopsy to exclude cancer
and provide a histological diagnosis.
References and Resources
 APGO Medical Student Educational Objectives, 9th edition, (2009),
Educational Topic 40 (p84-85).
 Beckman & Ling: Obstetrics and Gynecology, 6th edition, (2010),
Charles RB Beckmann, Frank W Ling, Barabara M Barzansky, William
NP Herbert, Douglas W Laube, Roger P Smith. Chapter 31 (p283-294).
 Hacker & Moore: Hacker and Moore's Essentials of Obstetrics and
Gynecology, 5th edition (2009), Neville F Hacker, Joseph C Gambone,
Calvin J Hobel. Chapter 29 (p326-331).