Fibrocystic Breast Changes

What are fibrocystic breast changes?

Fibrocystic breast changes are lumpy areas in your breasts that are not caused by cancer. The lumps may be pockets of fluid, called cysts, or solid lumps of fibrous (thickened) tissue. These changes are very common in women between the ages of 20 and 50.

What is the cause?

The cause of fibrocystic breast changes is not known. Estrogen and other hormones made by the ovaries may play a role.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Breast pain or tenderness
  • Lumpiness in one or both breasts

These changes usually happen in both breasts 7 to 10 days before your menstrual period. They begin to go away when your period starts and are usually gone by the time your period ends. The lumps may go away or be less noticeable after menopause.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. Your healthcare provider may ask that you return for another exam in 2 to 6 weeks, depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle.

Tests may include:

  • A mammogram, which is an X-ray of the breast
  • Ultrasound, which uses sound waves to show pictures of the breast
  • Removal and testing of fluid from a cyst with a tiny needle

How is it treated?

To relieve breast pain, your provider may recommend that you:

  • Take nonprescription pain medicine, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, you should not take these medicines for more than 10 days.
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age.
    • Acetaminophen may cause liver damage or other problems. Unless recommended by your provider, don’t take more than 3000 milligrams (mg) in 24 hours. To make sure you don’t take too much, check other medicines you take to see if they also contain acetaminophen. Ask your provider if you need to avoid drinking alcohol while taking this medicine.
  • Wear a well-fitting bra for support, especially when you are physically active.
  • Use ice packs or heat to reduce or prevent symptoms.
    • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth on your breast every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time.
    • Put warm moist cloths, a hot water bottle, or heating pad on your breast. Cover the hot water bottle with a towel or set the heating pad on low so you don’t burn your skin.
  • Cut back on caffeine, such as coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate for a few months. Some women find their pain is less when they reduce or stop caffeine.

Your healthcare provider may prescribe birth control pills to reduce hormone changes caused by your menstrual period.

Large or painful cysts may be treated with aspiration. In this procedure, you are given a shot of medicine to numb the area and then fluid in the lump is removed with a needle and syringe.

How can I take care of myself?

Have a yearly exam by your healthcare provider and get regular screening mammograms as advised by your provider.

Talk to your healthcare provider about the benefits of doing regular breast self-exams. It is important to know how your breasts normally look and feel so that you can report any changes to your provider.

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-12-11
Last reviewed: 2014-12-11
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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