Fibrocystic Breast Tissue

Definition of Fibrocystic Breast Tissue

A patient prepares to have a mammogram.
A patient prepares to have a mammogram. kali9/Getty Images

Medical Specialties: Family practice, Internal medicine, Obstetrics-gynecology

Clinical Definition: Fibrocystic breast tissue is a common condition in which breasts have atypically dense tissue, with benign changes such as fibrosis and cysts present. Lumps, swelling and tenderness are typical symptoms of fibrocystic breast tissue. Dense breast tissue can make mammograms more difficult to read. Treatment for this condition is generally not needed if symptoms are not bothersome.

In Our Own Words: Fibrocystic breast tissue is a common benign condition, but it makes for denser breasts as well as mammograms that are harder to read, and it raises breast cancer risk. Closer monitoring may be advised. Fibrocystic breast tissue has lumps and bumps in it, which are the result of fibrosis (scar-like or fibrous tissue), and cysts (fluid-filled sacs).

Changes are nonproliferative, meaning they aren’t associated with overgrowth of breast tissue. Symptoms such as tenderness or lumps lead to the diagnosis. If the tissue is very painful, pain relievers or cyst drainage may help. Avoidance of saturated fat, and possibly caffeinated products, may help ease symptoms.

More Information About Fibrocystic Breast Tissue

Overall, fibrocystic breast changes are much more common in adults than they are in adolescents. In addition to nodularity or "ropiness" often detected in the upper-outer quadrant of the breast, women with fibrocystic breast tissue can also experience swelling and pain (mastalgia).

These symptoms typically present in a cyclical pattern and are most common right before your period.

If you're a young woman with fibrocystic breast changes, it's important for you to remember that fibrocystic changes of the breast are not cancerous and many healthy people exhibit these changes. In fact, fibrocystic breast changes occur in about half of all woman.

Nevertheless, it's a good idea to have your physician monitor your health and examine your breasts for any changes that may increase your risk for breast cancer like atypical hyperplasia, or abnormally appearing cells that overgrow and line the breast lobules and ducts.

Fortunately, there are measure you can take to limit the discomfort caused by fibrocystic breast tissue.

First, if you're breasts are painful, NSAIDs (medications like ibuprofen and naproxen) may help relieve this pain.

Second, because the pain of fibrocystic breast tissue is often triggered by menstruation, you may benefit from taking oral contraceptive pills.

Third, supportive bras may help.

Fourth, although there is no good evidence supporting that caffeine triggers the symptoms of fibrocystic breast tissue, some women report that the pain and discomfort of this condition abates after they discontinue ingestion of caffeine-containing products.

If you notice that you may have fibrocystic breast changes, it's a good idea to get your breasts evaluated by your primary care physician or OB-GYN.

Make sure to inform your physician of all the medications that you're taking, any previous mammograms or other diagnostic tests as well as any symptoms that you're experiencing--even if they have nothing to do with your breasts per se.

Sources:

The Cleveland Clinic. "Understanding Benign Breast Disease." Health Info. 2013. Accessed Oct. 2013.

University of Maryland Medical Center. "Fibrocystic breast disease." Medical Encyclopedia. May 2013. Accessed Oct. 2013.

American Cancer Society. "Breast cancer risk factors you cannot change." Breast Cancer. Sept. 2013. Accessed Oct. 2013.

Continue Reading