Do you feel lumps and nodes in your breast prior to your menstrual period? Does it hurt badly when you touch your breast? Do you feel heaviness in breast often? And most important are you afraid that this may end into breast cancer? So here’s a relief this painful condition is not cancer but it can be fibrocystic breast disease.
Fibrocystic breasts are composed of tissue that feels lumpy or rope-like in texture. Doctors call this nodular or glandular breast tissue. It’s not at all uncommon to have fibrocystic breasts. More than half of women experience fibrocystic breast changes at some point in their lives. In fact, medical professionals have stopped using the term “fibrocystic breast disease” and now simply refer to “fibrocystic breasts” or “fibrocystic breast changes” because having fibrocystic breasts isn’t really a disease.
Breast changes categorized as fibrocystic are considered normal. Fibrocystic breast condition primarily affects women 30 years of age and older. The reason for this is that the condition likely results from a cumulative process of repeated monthly hormonal cycles and the accumulation of fluid, cells, and cellular debris within the breast. The process starts with puberty and continues through menopause. After menopause (postmenopause), fibrocystic breast condition becomes less of a problem.
Signs and symptoms of fibrocystic breasts may include:
- Breast lumps or areas of thickening that tend to blend into the surrounding breast tissue
- Generalized breast pain or tenderness
- Breast lumps that fluctuate in size with the menstrual cycle
- Green or dark brown nonbloody nipple discharge that tends to leak without pressure or squeezing
- Breast changes that are similar in both breasts
- Monthly increase in breast pain or lumpiness from midcycle (ovulation) to just before period
The exact cause of fibrocystic breast changes isn’t known, but experts suspect that reproductive hormones — especially estrogen — play a role. Fluctuating hormone levels during menstrual cycle can cause breast discomfort and areas of lumpy breast tissue that feel tender, sore and swollen.
Most women who have fibrocystic breast disease don’t require invasive treatment. Home treatment is usually sufficient to relieve associated pain and discomfort.
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can usually effectively relieve any pain and discomfort. Wearing a well-fitting, supportive bra can reduce breast pain and tenderness.
Some women find that applying warm or cold compresses relieves their symptoms.
Some people have found that limiting their caffeine intake, eating a low-fat diet, or taking essential fatty acid supplements will reduce the symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease.
Indications to call Doctor
Fibrocystic breast disease doesn’t increase your risk of getting cancer, but the changes in your breasts can make it more difficult for you or your doctor to identify potentially cancerous lumps during breast exams and on mammograms. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women between 50 and 74 years old get a mammogram every two years. The National Cancer Institute also notes that regular breast self-exams can be helpful.
Call your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms. They may be signs of breast cancer:
- new or unusual lumps in your breasts
- redness or puckering of the skin on your breasts
- discharge from your nipple, especially if it’s clear, red, or bloody
- an indentation or flattening of your nipple