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The most likely symptom of a breast hamartoma is distortion of the shape or feel of the breast, but this may only present if the hamartoma is relatively large. Generally, breast hamartomas do not present with symptoms, which can make diagnosis difficult without use of a mammography or x-ray scan. Other possible symptoms of a breast hamartoma include redness of the skin around the breast, visible lesions, bloody discharge from or change in appearance of the nipple, and a lump around the armpit.
Hamartomas are generally benign lesions that occur when an organ grows incorrectly. They can occur in various different parts of the body, such as the brain, chest, breasts, liver and the skin. Hamartomas can occur as a result of other conditions, such as tuberous sclerosis and Cowden’s disease. If a patient has several benign hamartomas, this can be indicative of Proteus’ syndrome, which is the condition John Merrick suffered from in The Elephant Man.
A breast hamartoma can present with little to no symptoms, so detection can often be very difficult. Overall, breast hamartomas are more common in women over 35 years old, but are still a generally uncommon condition. The most likely symptom is a change in the shape or feeling of the breast, but this may still be imperceptible. If the breast hamartoma has caused a distortion in the shape of the breast, it probably means that the lump is quite large. Most breast hamartomas are only detected when the patient receives a mammography or an x-ray for an unrelated reason.
Other, less common symptoms of a breast hamartoma can include visible lesions, redness or dimpling of the skin, bloody discharge from the nipple, a change in appearance of the nipple, and swelling of the armpit. These symptoms are less common and generally depend on the precise location of the hamartoma. Some of these symptoms can easily go unnoticed, even if they present. For example, skin lesions caused as a result of a breast hamartoma can often be mistaken for a birth mark.
Diagnosis of a breast hamartoma is heavily reliant upon mammography scans, but surgery is often required to definitively determine the nature of lump. To treat the condition, the lump will be removed. In addition, any distortion of the shape of the breast will be corrected during surgery. The likelihood of any woman having a breast hamartoma is very low; between 0.1 and 0.7 percent of women get them, but they can have cancerous cells within them. Any patient experiencing symptoms of a breast hamartoma should consult her doctor.