Learn About Fibrocystic Breast Disease

What is the definition of Fibrocystic Breast Disease?

Fibrocystic breasts are painful, lumpy breasts. Formerly called fibrocystic breast disease, this common condition is, in fact, not a disease. Many women experience these normal breast changes, usually around their period.

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What are the alternative names for Fibrocystic Breast Disease?

Fibrocystic breast disease; Mammary dysplasia; Diffuse cystic mastopathy; Benign breast disease; Glandular breast changes; Cystic changes; Chronic cystic mastitis; Breast lump - fibrocystic; Fibrocystic breast changes

What are the causes of Fibrocystic Breast Disease?

Fibrocystic breast changes occur when thickening of breast tissue (fibrosis) and fluid-filled cysts develop in one or both breasts. It is thought that hormones made in the ovaries during menstruation can trigger these breast changes. This may make your breasts feel swollen, lumpy, or painful before or during your period each month.

More than half of women have this condition at some time during their life. It is most common between the ages of 30 and 50. It is rare in women after menopause unless they are taking estrogen. Fibrocystic breast changes do not change your risk for breast cancer.

What are the symptoms of Fibrocystic Breast Disease?

Symptoms are more often worse right before your menstrual period. They tend to get better after your period starts.

If you have heavy, irregular periods, your symptoms may be worse. If you take birth control pills, you may have fewer symptoms. In most cases, symptoms get better after menopause.

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain or discomfort in both breasts that may come and go with your period, but may last through the whole month
  • Breasts that feel full, swollen, or heavy
  • Pain or discomfort under the arms
  • Breast lumps that change in size with the menstrual period

You may have a lump in the same area of the breast that becomes larger before each period and returns to its original size afterward. This type of lump moves when it is pushed with your fingers. It does not feel stuck or fixed to the tissue around it. This type of lump is common with fibrocystic breasts.

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What are the current treatments for Fibrocystic Breast Disease?

Women who have no symptoms or only mild symptoms do not need treatment.

Your provider may recommend the following self-care measures:

  • Take over-the-counter medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain
  • Apply heat or ice on the breast
  • Wear a well-fitting bra or a sports bra

Some women believe that eating less fat, caffeine, or chocolate helps with their symptoms. There is no evidence that these measures help.

Vitamin E, thiamine, magnesium, and evening primrose oil are not harmful in most cases. Studies have not shown these to be helpful. Talk with your provider before taking any medicine or supplement.

For more severe symptoms, your provider may prescribe hormones, such as birth control pills or other medicine. Take the medicine exactly as instructed. Be sure to let your provider know if you have side effects from the medicine.

Surgery is never done to treat this condition. However, a lump that stays the same throughout your menstrual cycle is considered suspicious. In this case, your provider may recommend a core needle biopsy. In this test, a small amount of tissue is removed from the lump and examined under a microscope.

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What is the outlook (prognosis) for Fibrocystic Breast Disease?

If your breast exams and mammograms are normal, you do not need to worry about your symptoms. Fibrocystic breast changes do not increase your risk for breast cancer. Symptoms usually improve after menopause.

When should I contact a medical professional for Fibrocystic Breast Disease?

Call your provider if:

  • You find new or different lumps during your breast self-exam.
  • You have new discharge from the nipple or any discharge that is bloody or clear.
  • You have redness or puckering of the skin, or flattening or indentation of the nipple.
Female Breast
Fibrocystic breast change
What are the latest Fibrocystic Breast Disease Clinical Trials?

Summary: The VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL (VITAL; NCT 01169259) is an ongoing randomized clinical trial in 25,875 U.S. men and women investigating whether taking daily dietary supplements of vitamin D3 (2000 IU) or omega-3 fatty acids (Omacor® fish oil, 1 gram) reduces the risk of developing cancer, heart disease, and stroke in people who do not have a prior history of these illnesses. This ancillary study ...

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Targeted Prevention of Postpartum-Related Breast Cancer

Summary: This phase II trial tests whether low-dose aspirin can affect markers of inflammation in postpartum (after childbirth) patients with benign breast disease planning to have a breast biopsy. Chronic inflammation may increase the risk of postpartum related breast cancer. Low-dose aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Giving low-dose aspirin may affect markers of inflammation in blood and...

What are the Latest Advances for Fibrocystic Breast Disease?
Metformin in the management of fibrocystic breast disease: a placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial.
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Metformin as a new option in the medical management of breast fibroadenoma; a randomized clinical trial.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: October 16, 2020
Published By: Todd Campbell, MD, FACS, Clinical Assistant Professor Department of Surgery, Volunteer Faculty, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Stratford, NJ; Medical Director, Independence Blue Cross, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Benign breast problems and conditions. www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/gynecologic-problems/benign-breast-problems-and-conditions. Updated February 2021. Accessed March 16, 2021.

Klimberg VS, Hunt KK. Diseases of the breast. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 21st ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022:chap 35.

Sandadi S, Rock DT, Orr JW, Valea FA. Breast diseases: detection, management, and surveillance of breast disease. In: Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Lentz GM, Valea FA, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 15.

Sasaki J, Geletzke A, Kass RB, Klimberg VS, Copeland EM, Bland KI. Etiologoy and management of benign breast disease. In: Bland KI, Copeland EM, Klimberg VS, Gradishar WJ, eds. The Breast: Comprehensive Management of Benign and Malignant Diseases. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 5.