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Fibrocystic Breast Disease

When it comes to conditions affecting the breasts, a woman has to be remain alert. Breast lumps and pain can indicate breast cancer. This is why when one is diagnosed with fibrocystic breast disease, it is surely a cause for concern. This is a condition that affects women in the age group of 25 to 50 years. These women may find there is one or many lumps in one or both breasts. However, it is not a worrisome condition as it turns out to be a benign condition in about 85% cases.

What is Fibrocystic Breast Disease?

Fibrocystic breast disease is a condition that is a non-cancerous change occurring within the breast tissues. The term 'disease' is very misleading, and the main cause of panic in women diagnosed with this condition. It is not a disease, but a condition where a 'change' occurs within the breast tissues. Thus, many doctors prefer to call the condition by other names like fibrocystic change, fibroglandular change, mammary dysplasia, chronic cystic mastitis, benign breast disease, etc. The term is used when a woman complains of painful, lumpy breasts.


These fibrocystic breast lumps are actually cysts (fluid-filled sacs). The cysts tend to grow bigger, especially at the end of the menstruation cycle. This causes the body to retain more fluid, causing the cysts to grow larger. It is thought the changes in the hormones produced by the ovaries causes the appearance of these lumps. The hormones estrogen and progesterone causes the changes in breast tissues. Thus, making the breast tissues grow and multiply into lumps. Not all lumps are fluid-filled sacs. They can also be benign tumors that are known as fibroadenomas. These lumps occur due to severe injury or infection of the breast. These lumps are tumors that are made up of lipoma (fatty tissues) or intraductal papilloma (blocked milk duct). The lumps tend to stop appearing after menopause. Experts have not yet found the exact cause of these lumps in the breasts.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms tend to worsen before the start of a woman's menstrual period. One feels pain and discomfort in the one or both breasts. This breast pain may appear during the menstrual cycle. A woman finds her breasts heavy, swollen and full. A lump may be felt in the breast that seems to grow larger before the menstrual cycle. These lumps tend to shrink in size, once the menstrual period is over. When pushed or touched, the lumps move about and do not seem attached to any breast tissue. Some women also complain of discharge from their nipples. This discharge may be clear or bloody. If discharge is observed, seek medical attention right away. The breast lumps have a definitive shape, smooth borders and may feel rubbery. One may even find them irregular in shape, like tiny beads. These lumps may differ in characteristics from one women to another.


Any kind of lump, painful or not, hard or movable, small or large, should be bought to the notice of a doctor. In order to minimize the concerns of breast cancer, the doctor will aspirate the fluid within the cysts. If the fluid is bloody or appears abnormal, it may be sent for further examination. If fluid cannot be aspirated, the doctor will suggest an ultrasound or mammogram. Biopsies may be conducted to obtain tissue samples and find if any cancerous cells are present.


The treatment usually involves pain management. The doctor may prescribe mild pain relievers like ibuprofen. Hot and cold compress may also help reduce the pain intensity. Women are advised to wear well fitting and well supporting bra, even at night. Some women also find application of vitamin E, evening primrose oil also helps. However, there is no scientific proof to support these claims. Also, eating less of chocolates, fat, and reducing consumption of caffeine also does not make much of difference. One should reduce smoking as it tends to help subside the lumps.

Women over the age of 35 years and those with a family history of breast cancer should get themselves regularly examined. Fibrocystic breast disease is usually a benign condition and does not lead to breast cancer. The symptoms tend to improve after menopause. Make sure any detected lump in breast is reported to a doctor for expert diagnosis.

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