Fibrocystic Breast Changes

ExitCare ImageFibrocystic breast changes occur when breast ducts become blocked, causing painful, fluid-filled lumps (cysts) to form in the breast. This is a common condition that is noncancerous (benign). It occurs when women go through hormonal changes during their menstrual cycle. Fibrocystic breast changes can affect one or both breasts.

CAUSES

The exact cause of fibrocystic breast changes is not known, but it may be related to the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Family traits that get passed from parent to child (genetics) may also be a factor in some cases.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

  • Tenderness, mild discomfort, or pain.  

  • Swelling.  

  • Ropelike feeling when touching the breast.  

  • Lumpy breast, one or both sides.  

  • Changes in breast size, especially before (larger) and after (smaller) the menstrual period.  

  • Green or dark brown nipple discharge (not blood).  

Symptoms are usually worse before menstrual periods start and get better toward the end of the menstrual period.

DIAGNOSIS

To make a diagnosis, your health care provider will ask you questions and perform a physical exam of your breasts. The health care provider may recommend other tests that can examine inside your breasts, such as:

  • A breast X-ray (mammogram).  

  • Ultrasonography. 

  • An MRI.  

If something more than fibrocystic breast changes is suspected, your health care provider may take a breast tissue sample (breast biopsy) to examine.

TREATMENT

Often, treatment is not needed. Your health care provider may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers to help lessen pain or discomfort caused by the fibrocystic breast changes. You may also be asked to change your diet to limit or stop eating foods or drinking beverages that contain caffeine. Foods and beverages that contain caffeine include chocolate, soda, coffee, and tea. Reducing sugar and fat in your diet may also help. Your health care provider may also recommend:

  • Fine needle aspiration to remove fluid from a cyst that is causing pain.  

  • Surgery to remove a large, persistent, and tender cyst.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Examine your breasts after every menstrual period. If you do not have menstrual periods, check your breasts the first day of every month. Feel for changes, such as more tenderness, a new growth, a change in breast size, or a change in a lump that has always been there.  

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicine as directed by your health care provider.  

  • Wear a well-fitted support or sports bra, especially when exercising.  

  • Decrease or avoid caffeine, fat, and sugar in your diet as directed by your health care provider.  

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have fluid leaking (discharge) from your nipples, especially bloody discharge.  

  • You have new lumps or bumps in the breast.  

  • Your breast or breasts become enlarged, red, and painful.  

  • You have areas of your breast that pucker in.  

  • Your nipples appear flat or indented.