Feeling Continuous Dull Pain In the Breast? Know How Fibrocystic Breasts Affects You
Does touching the breasts give you a feel of lump or some rope-like textured mass? Does your breast feel swollen or tender to touch? If yes, then you might be suffering from one of the common conditions related to breast known as ‘fibrocystic breast disease or ‘fibrocystic breast changes’.
What are Fibrocystic breasts?
Fibrocystic breasts by the term mean breast tissue that feels like a lump or rope-like texture in touching. Medically, this is called as nodular or glandular breast tissue. Fibrocystic breast means your breasts are naturally experiencing two changes inside; fibrous tissue and benign cysts.
Fibrosis means your breast have a lot of tissues which are scar like. Fibrous tissues such as ligaments become more prominent than the fatty tissue. These fibrous tissues will be firm, rubbery, or even solid. While cysts on the other hand, are fluid filled sacs or lump that are movable in the breasts.
Is Fibrocystic breast change normal?
The name might scare some women but changes in the breasts categorized as fibrocystic are considered as normal, although it may hurt. The condition previously used to be called as ‘fibrocystic breast disease’ but medical professionals no longer consider it as a disease so they simply use the term ‘fibrocystic breast changes’.
About 50 percent of women in the age group of 20-50 will see some kind of fibrocystic change during their lifetime. The condition is rare after menopause, but it can occur if you are using hormonal therapy.
What causes Fibrocystic changes in the breast?
The doctors exactly don’t know what causes these changes. But it is believed that hormones estrogen and progesterone produced by ovaries play a role. If a woman has fibrocystic breasts, she may experience more noticeable changes in response to these hormones. These changes can lead to swelling, tenderness and pain in the breasts.
Besides cyst causing lump in the breast and swelling of the breast lobules (milk producing glands), a woman might also notice thickening of the lump in the breast as a result of excessive growth of fibrous tissue.
Symptoms of Fibrocystic breasts
Fibrocystic breast will hardly produce any symptoms. However, some women who experience symptoms might notice lumpiness, pain and tenderness especially in the upper area of the breast. Symptoms can be more bothersome just before the menstruation.
- Both the breasts having similar changes
- Lump changing size during menstrual periods
- Generalized pain, tenderness or discomfort in the breasts
- Green or dark brown discharge from the nipples
Is it Cancer?
Think of the breast lumps and the first thing that comes in mind is the fear of cancer. Having fibrocystic breast doesn’t increase your risk of getting breast cancer. However, it can play trick when you do self-exam for lumps or changes in the breasts. Lumps have the tendency to hide or mimic the lumps found in cancer, so it is really important to know what’s going on inside your breasts.
Diagnosis of Fibrocystic breast changes
- Self-examination – The primary method of diagnosing the condition is to touch and feel the lumpy areas of the breasts. The lumps are mostly found in the upper quarter of the breast and are movable with smooth and rubbery feel. They can also somewhat fluctuate in size. By getting to know the lumpiness, tenderness, thickness in the breast or any other symptoms above, you are perhaps completing the first step towards diagnosing the condition.
- Clinical breast exam – If you suspect something unusual, the next step would be seeking an appointment with the doctor and discussing about your problem in detail. The doctor will be conducting clinical breast exam by manually checking your breasts and lymph nodes (small glands). The evaluation will be done to check the unusual areas taking shape, density and size in perspective.
- Imaging techniques – Further information will be acquired from images derived from mammography which is an x-ray procedure specifically used for breast screening. Apart from this, ultrasound will further clear the picture if there is any mass present in the breast. Ultrasound is much better in evaluating condition in younger women, especially if the woman is below 30 years of age.
- Breast Biopsy - If the mammography and ultrasound are normal and the doctor still suspect a breast lump; the next step would be to conduct a biopsy. Fine-needle aspiration is a biopsy procedure that focuses on lumps that feel like cyst. During the procedure, a thin needle will be inserted and fluid will be extracted from the lump for evaluation. The biopsy can be guided either through mammography or ultrasound. You might be referred to a breast surgeon who will take sample tissue of the affected area and test it under the microscope and then suggest further course of action.
Does Fibrocystic breast require treatment?
Fibrocystic changes in the breast don’t cause any negative health effects and generally you won’t require any treatment. However, for women experiencing symptoms might be suggested following things:
You might be advised over the counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
If there is a cyst that is causing pain, then it can be punctured and the fluid can be drained. This is usually done through fine-needle aspiration. Sometimes, cysts can disappear on their own.
Surgical procedures are rarely needed in cases where lumps or cysts are recurring time and again.
Some women might be advised for holistic approach rather than going for drug treatment. Some of the suggestions you would get from the doctors are:
- Avoiding beverages containing caffeine is believed to be helpful for some women.
- Cutting sodium from the diet.
- Consuming low fat diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Vitamin E, B6, and Magnesium supplements.
- Applying heat can help reduce swelling and pain.
- Wearing good quality and well-fitted bra that provides good support.
Fibrocystic breast is a part of natural changes that occurs in women. However, that does not mean signs and symptoms should be neglected. Seek an appointment with the gynecologist if you notice unusual lump which is making your breast painful and tender.