Fibrocystic breast disease, commonly known as fibrocystic breasts, is a condition that causes benign or non-cancerous lumps in the breasts. While the lumps by themselves are not particularly harmful, they tend to cause pain and discomfort in the breast tissue. The condition is very common in women between the ages of 20 and 50. Symptoms usually ease up after menopause. Because of its common nature, the lumpy tissue in the breast is often simply referred to as fibrocystic changes in the breast.
There is not much evidence suggesting a link to cancer in fibrocystic breasts. Fibrocystic changes do not increase a person’s chances of developing cancer. It is, however, necessary to differentiate between fibrocystic lumps and other malignant lumps.
Symptoms differ in occurrence, both with respect to levels of discomfort in different people and also in terms of menstrual cycles. Often, both the breasts develop lumps, but pain may be quite severe in one breast compared to the other. Although it can vary, the pain areas in the breasts are usually concentrated on where the majority of milk glands are- which are the upper regions of the breasts or the undersides.
Common symptoms include:
- Lumps in either one or both breasts that have bumpy, rope-like texture.
- Tender breasts
- Swelling and feeling of heaviness in breasts
- Pain in the whole breast or in specific areas of the breast
- Pain in the armpits
- Thickening of tissue in the breast
- Fibrocystic breasts occur most commonly in premenopausal women. The causes are linked to hormonal fluctuations in women. Fibrocystic breasts are linked to regulation of oestrogen. This is why symptoms typically increase around the time of menstrual cycles. An overgrowth of cells in the breast lobules (milk-producing glands) cause swelling. Excess growth of fibrous tissue in the breast also causes fibrocystic changes.
- Women who undergo hormone replacement therapy after menopause are more likely to develop the condition.
Fibrocystic breasts can bediagnosed through a mammogram, clinical breast exam, ultrasound and biopsy. Here are some of the treatments for FB:
- Since fibrocystic breasts aren’t harmful, treatment mostly involves self-care. The symptoms are manageable through pain-relieving medication.
- Birth control pills help in decreasing the symptoms of the condition.
- Using a warm or cold compress can help with the pain and swelling. A proper, well-fitting brassiere can relieve some of the discomforts.
- Although there aren’t conducive studies to support this theory, cutting down the intake of caffeine and junk food, and increasing healthy foods during this time can reduce the symptoms of fibrocystic changes in the breasts.