Fibrocystic Breast Disease

Not All Breast Disease is Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is what comes to mind when most people think of breast disease. In fact, a number of other types of breast disease exist, including some, such as breast mastitis and fibrocystic breast disease that can produce non-cancerous breast lumps. The appearance of any form of breast lump is a frightening event, as the first thought of most women is that they have found a breast cancer tumor.

Fibrocystic Breast Disease

Fibrocystic breast condition (sometimes referred to as fibrocystic breast disease, fibrocystic change, cystic disease, chronic cystic mastitis, or mammary dysplasia) is not a disease, but rather, it describes a variety of changes in the glandular and stromal tissue of the breast. Symptoms of fibrocystic breasts include cysts (accumulated pockets of fluid), fibrosis (formation of scar-like connective tissue), lumpiness, and areas of thickening, tenderness, or breast pain. Though sometimes painful, fibrocystic breast condition is not cancer. However, fibrocystic breasts can sometimes make breast cancer more difficult to detect with mammography. Therefore, ultrasound may be necessary in some cases if a breast abnormality is detected in a woman with fibrocystic breasts.

Fibrocystic breast changes are the most common cause of non-cancerous breast lumps in women between 30 and 50 years old. More than 50% of women have fibrocystic breast symptoms at some point in their lives.

Women who suffer from fibrocystic changes typically have cyclic breast pain, or tenderness that coincides with their menstrual cycle. The cause of the condition is related to the way breast tissue responds to monthly changes in the body’s levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. During each menstrual cycle, breast tissue sometimes swells because hormonal stimulation causes the breast milk glands and ducts to enlarge, and in turn, causes the breasts to retain water. During menstruation, breasts may feel swollen, painful, tender, or lumpy. Breast swelling usually ends when menstruation is over.

Fibrocystic changes are typically discovered in both breasts in the upper outer quadrant and the underside of the breast where a ridge may sometimes be felt. Depending on the individual situation, several measures may be recommended to relieve the symptoms of fibrocystic breasts.

For breast pain from fibrocystic breast disorder:

  • Wear a good supportive bra.
  • Avoid caffeine intake (coffee, tea, and soft drinks, chocolate).
  • Over-the-counter Vitamin E supplementation (400 IU daily), Vitamin B6, Niacin, or other vitamins.
  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory (Ibuprofen or Advil – 800mg three times a day with food).
  • Heat to the affected breast.
  • Maintaining a low fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains.
  • Reducing salt intake.
  • Evening Primrose Oil, in liquid or tablet form (2 grams orally/day)