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Fibrocystic Breast Changes

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Feb.07.2023
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Fibrocystic Breast Changes

Fibrocystic Breast Changes

Side view of a normal breast compared to a side view of a breast with some fibrous tissue and cysts.

Fibrocystic breast changes are changes in breast tissue that can cause breasts to become swollen, lumpy, or painful. This can happen due to the buildup of scar-like tissue (fibrous tissue) or the forming of fluid-filled sacs (cysts) in the breast. Fibrocystic breast changes can affect one or both breasts. The condition is common, and most often, it is not associated with cancer. The changes usually happen because of hormone changes during a monthly period.

What are the causes?

The exact cause of fibrocystic breast changes is not known. However, this condition may be:
  • Related to the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.
  • Influenced by family traits that get passed from parent to child (inherited).

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition include:
  • Tenderness, swelling, mild discomfort, or pain.
  • Rope-like tissue that can be felt when touching the breast.
  • Lumps in one or both breasts.
  • Changes in breast size. Breasts may get larger before a menstrual period and smaller after a menstrual period.
  • Discharge from the nipple.

Symptoms of this condition may affect one or both breasts and are usually worse before menstrual periods start. Symptoms usually get better toward the end of menstrual periods.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition is diagnosed based on your medical history and a physical exam of your breasts. You may also have tests, such as:
  • A breast X-ray (mammogram).
  • Ultrasound.
  • MRI.
  • Removing a small sample of tissue from the breast for tests (breast biopsy). This may be done if your health care provider thinks that something else may be causing changes in your breasts.

How is this treated?

Often, treatment is not needed for this condition. In some cases, however, treatment may be needed, including:
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medicines to help relieve pain or discomfort.
  • Limiting or avoiding caffeine. Foods and beverages that contain caffeine include chocolate, soda, coffee, and tea.
  • Reducing sugar and fat in your diet.

Treatment may also include:
  • A procedure to remove fluid from a cyst that is causing pain (fine needle aspiration).
  • Surgery to remove a cyst that is large or tender or does not go away.
  • Medicines that may lower the amount of female hormones.

Follow these instructions at home:

Self-care

Check your breasts after every menstrual period. If you do not have menstrual periods, check your breasts on the first day of every month. Feel for changes in your breasts, such as:
  • More tenderness.
  • A new growth.
  • A change in size.
  • A change in an existing lump.

General instructions

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Wear a well-fitting support or sports bra, especially when exercising.
  • If told by your health care provider, decrease or avoid caffeine, fat, and sugar in your diet.
  • Keep all follow-up visits.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • You have fluid leaking from your nipple, especially if it is bloody.
  • You have new lumps or bumps in your breast.
  • Your breast becomes enlarged, red, and painful.
  • You have areas of your breast that pucker inward.
  • Your nipple appears flat or indented.

Get help right away if:

  • You have redness of your breast and the redness is spreading.

Summary

  • Fibrocystic breast changes are changes in breast tissue that can cause breasts to become swollen, lumpy, or painful.
  • This condition may be related to the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.
  • With this condition, it is important to examine your breasts after every menstrual period. If you do not have menstrual periods, check your breasts on the first day of every month.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.

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