Fibrocystic breasts are characterized by lumpiness and usually discomfort in one or both breasts. The condition is very common and benign, meaning that fibrocystic breasts are not malignant (cancerous). Fibrocystic breasts or so called “Fibrocystic breast disease” is a commonly used phrase to describe findings on a breast exam. The word “disease” makes women worry that their breasts are abnormal, but this is not really a disease.
Fibrocystic breasts mean fibrocystic changes in breasts. It is the most common cause of “lumpy breasts” in women and affects more than 60% of women. The condition primarily affects women between the ages of 30 and 50 and tends to become less of a problem after menopause.
The diagnosis of fibrocystic breasts is complicated by the fact that the condition can vary widely in its severity. In some women, the symptoms of fibrocystic breast condition can be very mild with minimal breast tenderness or pain. The symptoms can also be limited in time, usually occurring during premenstrual period.
It may not even be possible to feel any lumps when the breasts are examined by the woman herself or by her doctor. In other women with fibrocystic breasts, the pain and tenderness are constant, and many lumpy or nodular areas can be felt throughout both breasts.
Fibrocystic breasts causes
The breasts are mostly made up of tissue that is affected by hormones produced by the ovaries. In general breasts are easily responding to female hormonal changes. Change of hormones throughout women’s menstrual cycle can cause the breasts to feel swollen, lumpy, and painful. The most significant contributing factor to fibrocystic breasts is women’s normal hormonal variation during menstrual cycle. The most important of these hormones are estrogen and progesterone. These two hormones directly affect the breast tissues by causing cells to grow and multiply. Many hormones aside from estrogen and progesterone also play an important role in causing fibrocystic breasts. Prolactin, growth factor, insulin, and thyroid hormone are some of the other major hormones that are produced outside of the breast tissue, yet act in important ways on the breast. In addition, the breast itself produces hormonal products from its glandular and fat cells. Signals that are released from these hormonal products are sent to neighboring breast cells. The signals from these hormone-like factors may, in fact, be the key contributors to the symptoms of fibrocystic breast condition. These substances may also enhance the effects of estrogen and progesterone and vice versa.
In the breast, these same hormones stimulate the growth of breast glandular tissue and increase the activity of blood vessels, cell metabolism, and supporting tissue. All this activity may contribute to the feeling of breast fullness and fluid retention that women commonly experience before their menstrual period.
After menopause hormonal fluctuations are dramatically changed (reduced) and fibrocystic changes in the breasts usually stop happening.
Changes in breasts during menstrual could be noted in more than 60% of women, and are most common in women ages 30 – 50. Women who take hormone replacement therapy may have more symptoms or more severe symptoms. Women who take birth control pills sometimes also could feel breast tenderness – one of the common side effects of birth control pills.
There is no definite cause of painful, lumpy breasts. There is no proof that eating chocolate, drinking caffeine, or eating a high-fat diet can cause these symptoms.
Fibrocystic breasts risk group
Age factor – fibrocystic breasts mainly affecting women after 30 up to 50. 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, fibrocystic breasts become less problematic.
Can fibrocystic breast condition affect just one breast?
Not usually. As a rule, fibrocystic breast condition tends to be symmetrical (bilateral) and affects both breasts. A woman can have more fibrocystic involvement in one breast than in the other. The less affected breast, however, often “catches up” over the years, and eventually both breasts become almost equally fibrocystic.
Fibrocystic breasts symptoms
Fibrocystic breasts’ symptoms include:
- Breasts’ tenderness and/or sensitivity,
- One or more lumps in your breasts,
- Pain in breasts,
- Nipple discharge.
Fibrocystic breasts’ symptoms are usually worse right before your menstrual period, and then improve after the period starts. You may feel pain or discomfort, usually in both breasts. Breast pain commonly comes and goes, but it can be persistent. Your breasts may feel full, swollen, and heavy.
Some breast cysts are very small, but others can be as large as a hen’s egg. If you apply pressure, larger cysts may change shape slightly and can be moved around a bit under your skin.
Most fibroadenomas have a firm, smooth, rubbery feeling and a well-defined shape. They also tend to move around under your skin.
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