Benign Breast Lumps As Harbingers

This image provided by Florida legislature via the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida on Friday, April 24, 2009 shows a proposed design for a Florida license plate depicting a Christian cross that would be available to drivers if lawmakers pass a bill in the Legislature.
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The discovery of a lump in a woman's breast often turns out to be from something other than breast cancer, but it can be a sign that a woman is at higher risk of developing the disease. And, reports The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay, new research suggests that certain lumps carry higher risks than others.

She explains that mammograms are the best screening tool we have to detect breast cancer. Experts say that, while mammograms aren't a perfect way to spot breast cancer, they're the best method for detecting the disease when it's most treatable. The theory is, that in many cases, mammograms are able to find much smaller tumors much earlier than with breast self-exams, giving physicians the chance to treat them much earlier and more effectively.

Should a suspicious lump be found, doctors could perform a biopsy, in which a small sample of the suspect tissue is removed for analysis. In the majority of cases, the tissue turns out to be non-cancerous, or what's known as benign breast disease.

A study in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine looked at the different types of benign breast disease in more than 9,000 women, and found that the type of benign tissue made a big difference in the risk of developing cancer.

About two-thirds of the women had benign lumps made up of cells that weren't actively growing. The good news is that this most common type of benign tissue didn't increase the risk of developing breast cancer much at all, over an average of ten years after diagnosis.