Breast Disease Terminology

Breast Disease Terminology
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  • 00:00 Breast Cancer
  • 00:26 Fibroamdenoma &…
  • 1:25 Mastalgia, Mastitis,…
  • 3:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Can men produce milk? Are fibroadenomas a sign of cancer? Human breasts can experience plenty of problems, and this lesson defines several disorders that involve them.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is quite likely the most famous of all disorders, diseases, and problems associated with the breasts, as well it should be, of course. But breast cancer is by no means the only problem women and even some men may experience with their breasts.

Let's take a look at some lesser-known, but by no means less important, disorders and diseases of the breasts.

Fibroadenoma & Fibrocystic Breasts

One such problem is called a fibroadenoma, benign painless tumors of the breast more commonly found in women under age 30. Let's break this word down to understand its meaning. 'Fibro-' means 'fiber,' and that should be easy enough to remember. 'Adeno-' means 'glandular,' and '-oma' means 'tumor.' So, it's a tumor of glandular and fibrous tissues. A fibroadenoma is usually painless and feels like a marble in the breast that is easily moved under the skin.

'Fibro' is also found in the word 'fibrocystic,' as in fibrocystic breasts, breasts that contain benign, dense, and painful lumps. Again, 'fibro-' refers to fiber, and 'cyst' refers to an encapsulated sac.

I want to emphasize that although both fibrocystic breasts and breasts that contain a fibroadenoma do have lumps within them, they are not a sign of breast cancer. These are benign, or non-cancerous conditions.

Mastalgia, Mastitis, Galactorrhea

As I recently mentioned, the swellings in fibrocystic breasts can be painful. Pain in the breast has a proper term, known as mastalgia. Sometimes it's also called mastodynia or mammalgia. 'Masto-' and 'mamma-' mean 'breast,' while '-algia' and '-dynia' (or 'DIN-ee-a') both mean 'pain.'

Mastalgia is definitely a component of mastitis, the inflammation of the breast, where '-itis' means 'inflammation.' While that is the technical definition of mastitis, in common usage, mastitis also implies there is an infectious process occurring within the breast.

Mastitis usually occurs in women who breastfeed. Here's one reason why. When the baby suckles, the nipples can become irritated and cracked. The skin is normally like a defensive wall that prevents intruders from making their way into the body. But since cracks have now formed in this defensive wall, bacteria can enter the body.

And the bacteria love entering the breast. Do you know why? It's because there's a rich supply of food there! Milk has a high sugar content that feeds not only babies but also bacteria. The bacteria multiply like crazy. But the body doesn't want to sit still and let the infection get out of hand, so it initiates a top secret counterattack plan called inflammation, which tries to destroy everything in sight, including normal breast tissue.

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