What is the difference between benign and malignant breast cancer? How are they treated differently?
In medical lingo, benign means noncancerous. So technically, there is no such thing as benign breast cancer. However, tumors, which are abnormal growths, can be benign or malignant. A malignant tumor is composed of cancerous cells that can spread to surrounding tissue and to distant parts of the body.
In normal, noncancerous tissue, cell growth and reproduction is limited or regulated. With cancer, cell growth and reproduction is uncontrolled. As the cancer grows and invades other tissue, it destroys healthy cells. A benign growth does not pose such a threat and benign breast tumors do not always require treatment. Sometimes, for health or cosmetic reasons, benign breast lumps are surgically removed or otherwise treated.
Some women have fibrocystic, or lumpy, breasts, with lumps that change or disappear with the stages of their menstrual cycle. Women with fibrocystic breast disease have a higher risk of getting breast cancer later in life. So it is especially important for these women to examine their breasts regularly and be able to identify any changes that are out of the ordinary. Lumps that are unusual in any way or that do not go away may need to be tested (biopsied) for breast cancer.
Breast cancer treatment depends on how the cancer is staged, or classified. The classifications are based on the kind of breast tissue where the cancer originated and also on how far the cancer has spread. Unlike benign breast tumors, doctors always recommend treating breast cancer. Conventional medical therapy for breast cancer may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or hormonal drugs.