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Fibrocystic breast disease is a very common condition characterized by cyclical changes in the breast tissue. This condition is entirely benign, and does not increase the risk of getting breast cancer or developing other medical problems with the breast. For this reason, some health care providers prefer to refer to it as fibrocystic breast condition or fibrocystic breast changes, emphasizing the fact that it is not dangerous for the patient. The condition is so common that when doctors identify it in a patient during an unrelated exam, they may neglect to mention it.
Over 50% of women develop fibrocystic breast disease, with the condition being most common between the ages of 20 and 50. Women who use hormonal birth control appear to be at a lower risk of developing changes, which suggests that hormones produced during the menstrual cycle may be involved in the periodic changes in breast tissue observed among women with this condition.
Women with fibrocystic breast disease may notice lumps in their breasts during a breast self exam or while putting on a bra. These lumps are rubbery in texture, and they change shape and move around in the breast with time. This condition is also associated with nipple discharges, breast tenderness, a rough texture to the breasts, and a feeling of fullness in the breasts. The symptoms may wax and wane over the course of the month.
Many women with fibrocystic breast disease are diagnosed because they identify a breast lump and seek treatment for it. Testing can include a breast exam conducted by a physician, a biopsy of the suspicious lump, or a mammogram. Mammograms are sometimes inconclusive because the breast tissue is so dense that the results of the test may be difficult to read. To be on the safe side, a doctor may recommended testing even with fibrocystic changes are suspected, to confirm that a lump is indeed benign.
This benign condition requires no treatment. Women who experience hardships as a result of the changes which occur in their breasts may want to consider taking hormonal birth control to manage their cycles, which should reduce the symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease. Other treatments include getting a fitted bra to provide support, and wearing appropriate bras for activities like sports to reduce breast tenderness. It is also important to conduct regular breast self exams and to be familiar with the changes which occur in the breasts during the month, so that abnormalities such as a cancerous lump will be more likely to be identified early.
Fibrocystic breast disease is also hereditary. If you have a relative who has it, chances are good you will have it, too.
Birth control pills do help, though. My doctor said she could tell a difference in my breasts when I had my first physical after being on the pill for about a year. She said my breasts didn't feel as dense or "thick," and said that was often the case when a woman started birth control.
She said doing monthly exams at the same time of the month was the best way to spot any problems, because I would get to know what was normal for me, and if anything abnormal popped up, I'd know it fairly quickly.
I have fibrocystic breast disease, and yes, it's scary the first time you find that lump. When I found one, I called a friend of my mom's who is a nurse. She told me to watch it for two weeks, and cut out my caffeine. I think I was about 25 or so when this happened. She knew my mom has fibrocystic disease, so she advised watchful waiting (since my mom is also a breast cancer survivor) and cutting out the caffeine. I did and the lump went away. Now it's my sentinel; when I have been drinking too much caffeine, I can feel it. When I cut back, it goes away.
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