A woman practicing BSE can encounter a broad
variety of benign breast conditions. These include normal changes
that occur during the menstrual cycle as well as several types of
benign lumps. What they have in common is that they are
cancer. Even among breast lumps that warrant a biopsy, some 80
percent prove to be benign.
Each breast has 15 to 20 sections, called lobes, each with many
smaller lobules. The lobules end in dozens of tiny bulbs that can
produce milk. The lobes, lobules, and bulbs are all linked by thin
tubes called ducts. These ducts lead to the nipple in the center of
a dark area of skin called the areola. Fat fills the spaces between
lobules and ducts. There are no muscles in the breasts, but muscles
lie under each breast and cover the ribs.
These normal features can sometimes make the breasts feel lumpy,
especially in women who are thin or who have small breasts.
In addition, from the time a girl begins to menstruate, her
breasts undergo regular changes each month. Many doctors believe
that nearly all breasts develop some lasting changes, beginning
when the woman is about 30. Eventually, about half of all women
will experience symptoms such as lumps, pain, or nipple discharge.
Generally these disappear with menopause.
Some studies show that the chances of developing benign breast
changes are higher for a woman who has never had children, has
irregular menstrual cycles, or has a family history of breast
cancer. Benign breast conditions are less common among women who
take birth control pills or who are overweight. Because they
usually involve the glandular tissues of the breast, benign breast
conditions are more of a problem for women of child-bearing age,
who have more glandular breasts.