Characteristic Symptoms Of Fibrocystic Breast Disease

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The characteristic symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease include lumpiness and tenderness of the breasts that varies with the menstrual cycle. The influence of estrogen is considered to be the biggest cause for this condition. It is important to be aware of the condition so that one can seek medical help immediately before complications appear.

Usually characterized by lumpiness of the breasts, fibrocystic breast condition (formerly known as fibrocystic breast disease) is very common in women. The lumps formed in the breast are similar to those formed in breast cancer but are benign. Although the exact cause of fibrocystic breast condition is still not known, it is the variation in reproductive hormonal levels that is considered as a possible cause.1

Fibrocystic breast disease is more likely to affect women above the age of 30. By the time menopause is attained, the conditions cease to occur.

Major Symptoms Of Fibrocystic Breast Disease

signs and symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease

Breast Lumps That Are Both Unilateral And Bilateral

The characteristic feature of FCC is the presence of smooth, round and slightly elastic nodules on palpation of the breast. Many women report that the presence of these nodules is more evident especially during the monthly periods. The lumpiness of the breasts feels like small nodules in some women and as generalized large lumps in some others. These lumps are often seen in one or both of the breasts.

Generalized Breast Pain Or Tenderness

Women with fibrocystic disease of the breast often experience a generalized pain in the breasts which increases especially during menstruation. The breast becomes too tender to touch. These symptoms often diminish after the last day of menstruation.

Breast Lumps That Fluctuate In Size With The Menstrual Cycle

Breast Lumps That Fluctuate In Size With The Menstrual Cycle

The breast lumps in this conditions swell in size before and during menstruation and return to normal size later on. The hormonal influence of both estrogen and progesterone is the reason why these lumps fluctuate in size with the menstrual cycle.2

A Characteristic Nipple Discharge

A green, blue or gray nipple discharge that leaks without pressure application or squeezing is another feature observed in women suffering from fibrocystic disease of the breast.3

Fibrocystic Breast Changes Regress With Menopause

Moet women see a heightening of the condition with increasing reproductive age and by the time they reach menopause, the changes regress. This is a clear indication that the condition has a strong association with estrogen.4

Although the condition is often non-cancerous, it is still a matter of concern, health wise. Breasts with nodular and cystic changes obscure the accuracy of cancer detection due to the dense breast tissue. But advanced techniques in mammography can still diagnose the presence of any cancerous lesion even amidst dense breast tissue.

Treatment Of Fibrocystic Breast Disease

treatment of fibrocystic breast disease

Although there is no accepted medical treatment for getting rid of fibrocystic breast changes, the following things can help you get symptomatic relief.5

  • OTC painkillers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen for pain relief
  • Wear a well-fitting bra for support
  • Applying warm compress or ice packs to ease the symptoms.
  • Limit caffeine intake as it can aggravate the cysts. 

It is important to be aware of these symptoms as will help you to sense if something is wrong and seek medical help immediately. Doctors recommend that a clinical breast examination performed regularly can help you keep track of any changes other than the ones given above.

If the lumps become fixed and hard or if there any nipple changes like retraction or bloody discharge then you need to consult a doctor immediately. The fibrocystic condition of the breast is majorly a harmless disease but cancerous changes can still occur, hence awareness can help in seeking medical attention early.6

References   [ + ]

1, 4.Vorherr, Helmuth. “Fibrocystic breast disease: pathophysiology, pathomorphology, clinical picture, and management.” American journal of obstetrics and gynecology 154, no. 1 (1986): 161-179.
2.Scott Ricci, Susan. Kyle, Terri.Maternity and Pediatric Nursing. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2009
3.Wittich, Christopher M. Mayo Clinic Internal Medicine Board Review. Oxford University Press2016
5.Fibrocystic Breast Changes. healthyhorns, University Health Services
6.Washington, Constance, Fabienne Dalbègue, Fleurette Abreo, Jeffery K. Taubenberger, and Jack H. Lichy. “Loss of heterozygosity in fibrocystic change of the breast: genetic relationship between benign proliferative lesions and associated carcinomas.” The American journal of pathology 157, no. 1 (2000): 323-329.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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