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About Fibrocystic Breast Disease

written by: Harry Sylvester • edited by: BStone • updated: 10/30/2010

A woman between 30 and 50 years of age may experience fibrocystic breast disease. This condition is common, but is not cancerous. Learn more about this condition along with the symptoms, possible cause, diagnosis and treatment.

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    What is Fibrocystic Breast Disease?

    Fibrocystic Breast Disease Fibrocystic breast disease (FBD), fibrocystic breast changes, or fibrocystic breast condition, is a condition in which a woman has a pain, tenderness and lumpiness in one or both breasts right before her period. This is referred to as glandular or nodular breast tissue. Despite its name, this condition is not a disease at all although it may make a woman anxious over the possibility of abnormality in her breasts.

    The condition affects women who are between 30 and 50 years old. It is not malignant (cancerous), but it is common. Self-examination of the breasts will uncover any lumps if they are present, as the pain and tenderness are constant.

    Click on image to enlarge.

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    Symptoms

    The possible symptoms may include:

    • Breast pain, lump, and swelling
    • Intermittent pain
    • Discharge from the nipple characterized by dark brown or green in color
    • Irregular size of breast lumps
    • Increasing pain right before the menstrual period
    • Sensation of heavy and full breasts

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    Causes

    The cause is not clear, but researchers have concluded that this condition is associated with hormonal changes. Every month, many hormonal changes take place as your body prepares for a moment of conception, and these changes cause the breasts to feel painful, lumpy, and swollen. Your body releases estrogen and progesterone which are two reproductive hormones responsible for these hormonal changes. They can affect the breast tissues immediately, allowing cells to multiply and thrive. After menopause, however, these hormonal changes stop occurring.

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    Diagnosis

    Several examinations to diagnose this condition include:

    Physical exam

    The doctor may examine the breast area and the lymph nodes visually and manually. The lymph nodes are commonly located in the lower neck and underarm area. You may need to undergo further exams if your doctor finds suspicious things during this physical exam.

    Breast ultrasound

    Breast ultrasound is a medical procedure to examine if a breast lump is a solid mass, which may be a cancer, or a cyst (a fluid-filled sac and it is not malignant). This test utilizes sound waves to generate images of the tissue inside the breast. Breast ultrasound is considered better than mammography since ultrasound can look at dense breast tissue more accurately.

    Mammography

    Mammography uses x-ray images to detect uncontrolled growth in the breast tissue. The doctor might suggest taking this test if a breast lump is present. In addition, if you are 30 years of age or above the doctor may advocate this examination to find anything unusual in the breast tissue. An image resulted from mammography is called a mammogram.

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    Treatment

    If you have mild symptoms, you do not need to have a treatment. However, you must have an immediate treatment when you experience excruciating pain in the breast area. Consult your doctor for more information on the best treatment you might receive. Below are several effective treatments for the condition:

    • Take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
    • Take prescribed medications, such as bromocriptine (Cycloset, Parlodel), or danazol (Danocrine)
    • Reduce dietary salt intake for one to two weeks before the period
    • Apply heat with warm water bottle or ice on the breast to reduce pain
    • Wear a well-fitting bra when exercising
    • Stop hormone therapy for postmenopausal women
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    References

    MayoClinic.com: Fibrocystic Breasts - http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fibrocystic-breasts/DS01070

    MayoClinic.org: Fibrocystic Breast Treatment - http://www.mayoclinic.org/fibrocystic-breast/treatment.html

    MedlinePlus: Fibrocystic Breast Disease - http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000912.htm

    Women.webmd.com: Fibrocystic Breasts – Topic Overview - http://women.webmd.com/tc/fibrocystic-breasts-topic-overview

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    Photo Credit

    Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.