About Fibrocystic Breasts

Fibrocystic breasts are composed of tissue that feels bumpy and ropey.

The lumpiness is due to small cysts or breast masses. This condition usually occurs in both breasts. Fibrocystic breasts may be tender and can cause mild to severe discomfort.

Fibrocystic changes occur in about half of all women, mostly during child bearing years. The cause appears to be normal hormonal fluctuations because the symptoms of fibrocystic breasts usually increase right before menstruation and subside after menstruation. Additionally, these monthly changes usually stop after menopause.

Fibrocystic breasts are not cancerous. This condition used to be referred to as a disease. Since it is so prevalent, it is no longer considered a disease.

Fibrocystic Breasts and Breast Cancer

While fibrocystic breasts are benign, diagnosing breast cancer in women with fibrocystic breasts can be more concerning. Fibrocystic breasts have lumps that can mimic breast cancer. If you have fibrocystic breasts, your physician may order diagnostic exams in addition to a mammogram to rule out breast cancer.

Additionally, women with this condition may find it more difficult to perform a breast self examination. It’s important to monitor the monthly changes in your breast tissue so you will notice if there are any new changes.

Risk Factors and Symptoms

Risk Factors for Fibrocystic Breasts

Being over the age of 30 is the only known risk factor for fibrocystic breasts.

Symptoms of Fibrocystic Breasts

The following symptoms of fibrocystic breasts usually peak right before menstruation. They can range from mild to severe.

  • Breast pain and tenderness
  • Thickened, lumpy areas in the breast tissue
  • Feeling of fullness in the breasts
  • Noncancerous cysts
  • Nipple discharge or sensation changes

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing Fibrocystic Breasts

Screening mammogram results for women with fibrocystic breasts may be more difficult to read due to the breast tissue being denser (more fibrous, cystic, and glandular rather than fatty). However, a definitive diagnosis can be made with a combination of mammography, breast ultrasound and sometimes a minimally invasive needle breast biopsy.

Treating this Condition

If you have fibrocystic breasts, there is no further treatment necessary. If you have severe or persistent pain though, talk to your doctor.

Some of the following self help measures may alleviate symptoms:

  • Restrict fat intake to 25% or less of daily calories
  • Eliminate caffeine from the diet
  • Wear a well-fitting bra with good support
  • Take certain vitamin or herbal supplements – discuss this with your doctor
  • Use oral contraceptives – discuss this with your doctor
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