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Radial Scars – A Benign Breast Abnormality

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Updated May 09, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

About Radial Scars of the Breast:

A radial scar is a star-shaped breast mass that may be completely benign, or it may be precancerous or contain a mixture of tissue, including hyperplasia, atypia, or cancer. If a radial scar is rather large, it may appear on a regular screening mammogram. It can look like an irregularly shaped star, having spiked arms radiating away from the center. A radial scar in breast tissue usually won't cause a lump that you can feel, nor will it make breast skin dimple or discolor. In some cases, a radial scar may cause some breast pain.

Also Known As:

Complex sclerosing lesion of the breast, black star, sclerosing papillary proliferation, infiltrating epitheliosis and indurative mastopathy

Radial Scars of the Breast Are Rare:

An estimated 0.04%, or six out of every 15,000 patients are diagnosed annually with a radial scar of the breast. Women between the ages of 41 and 60 are at the highest risk for a radial scar. These breast lesions are even less common in women under 40 or over 60 years old.

Significance of a Radial Scar Diagnosis:

Having a radial scar causes concern because a large one looks like breast cancer when seen on a mammogram. It is difficult to properly diagnose a radial scar, even with a biopsy, because under a microscope, the cell geometry closely resembles tubular carcinoma. This typically benign breast mass sometimes has malignant tissue hiding behind it.

Increased Risk For Breast Cancer:

If you have been diagnosed with a radial scar, then your lifetime risk for developing breast cancer is 150 to 200% greater than average. Many patients have extra screening mammograms to document any breast changes. Some women may choose a lumpectomy to remove the suspicious tissue.

Causes of a Radial Scar in Your Breast:

A radial scar is not always made of scar tissue, but it takes its name from its scar-like appearance on an x-ray. A radial scar may be caused by breast surgery, or breast inflammation or hormonal changes. It may also be the byproduct of fibrocystic changes in the breast that normally occur as you age.

Tests Used to Diagnose Radial Scar:

You may not need all of these tests, but you must have a biopsy so a pathologist can examine the tissue, to get a clear diagnosis.

Treatment For Radial Scar:

You may have options for radial scar treatment. Many doctors advise patients to have this breast mass surgically removed, in order to prevent a possible malignancy from forming. This may be done with an open surgical biopsy or a lumpectomy, depending on the size of the radial scar. The tissue from your surgery will be examined and tested in a lab. If your radial scar did not contain any invasive breast cancer cells, you won't need radiation, chemotherapy, or hormonal therapy as follow-up treatments.

Make Healthy Choices to Keep Your Breast Cancer Risk Low:

However, if you have a low risk of having a malignancy, then your doctor may suggest being extra vigilant about your breast health. Keep your risk of breast cancer low by sticking to an anticancer diet, doing regular exercise, keeping slim, and lowering your stress levels. Avoid using alcohol and tobacco to protect your overall health.

Sources::

Other benign breast conditions: Radial scars. American Cancer Society. Last Revised: 09/16/2010.

Radial scar of the breast - a confusing lesion. Oprić D, Fajdić J, Hrgović Z, Granić M, Milošević Z,Gugić D, Oprić S, Babić D, Fassbender WJ. Advances in Medical Sciences, Vol. 52 · 2007.

Radial Scars Without Atypia Diagnosed at Imaging-Guided Needle Biopsy: How Often Is Associated Malignancy Found at Subsequent Surgical Excision, and Do Mammography and Sonography Predict Which Lesions Are Malignant? Anna Linda, Chiara Zuiani, Alessandro Furlan, Viviana Londer, Rossano Girometti, Piernicola Machin and Massimo Bazzocchi. AJR 2010; 194:1146-1151.

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