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Feature Article

A guide to common breast problems

Cindy Mak, Sanjay Warrier

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Abstract

A sound approach to breast complaints can reduce anxiety for both patients and doctors. This involves careful history-taking, a thorough clinical examination and understanding when to refer for imaging or to a specialist.

Key Points

  • Common breast-related reasons for women to present to their GPs include breast pain, infections and lumps, and nipple discharge.
  • A sound approach to breast complaints involves careful history-taking, including a hormone and family cancer history, a thorough breast examination, and imaging or specialist referral when appropriate.
  • Breast pain is rarely a symptom of cancer; it can be cyclical or noncyclical and a common cause is chest pain.
  • Breast infections require early treatment with appropriate antibiotics to avoid abscess formation.
  • Breast lumps should be assessed with the triple test: history and clinical examination, imaging and nonexcision biopsy.

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