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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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Breast Exam
October 2002

Q. What is the difference between a papilloma and a cyst (while in the breast)? I know that cysts normally have fluid inside. Does a papilloma have fluid too?

A. Your question raises the issues of breast exam and early detection of cancer. Breast cancer is the 2nd leading type of cancer in women (skin cancer is #1) and about 180,000 new cases are found each year in the U.S. For this reason we encourage all women to do regular breast exams at home, and have yearly exams with their doctors. A mammograms, a breast x-ray, is usually recommended at age 4o and repeated every 1-2 years, as it can detect early cancers that may not be found on breast exam.

A suspicious lump found on exam or x-ray may need further tests such as a biopsy (tissue sample) to confirm whether the tissue is benign or cancerous. A cyst does refer to a fluid filled space, often felt as a lump, and these need further evaluation as they can be either benign or cancerous. A papilloma is usually a small, solid-feeling growth on the surface of the skin. See your doctor if you find any lump during self-exam of the breast.

http://www.familydoctor.org/healthfacts/018/

http://www.cancer.gov/cancerinfo/wyntk/breast

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