Do your breasts ever feel “lumpy”, sore or tender? If so, you may have fibrocystic breasts. This is a very common condition. It is not a disease, and it is not cancer. your doctor can rule out problems and help you ease your symptoms.

Your Breasts

Your breasts are made up of three kinds of tissue:

  • Glandular tissue makes up the milk ducts and glands.
  • Fibrous tissue supports the breasts.
  • Fatty tissue fills the spaces between the other tissues. It gives the breasts its size.

The more glandular and fibrous tissue a woman has, the more likely she is to have fibrocystic breasts.

Fibrocystic Breasts

Chemicals (hormones) that control your menstrual cycle can make glandular tissue swell. This stretches fibrous tissue, causing your breasts to feel sore. Hormones may also cause one or fluid-filled lumps (cysts) to form. They may be large or small. Cysts are benign (not cancer). Cysts may become larger and breasts may feel more tender just before your period.

What You May Feel

Changes in hormone levels during your menstrual cycle affect your breasts. If you have fibrocystic breasts, your breasts may become sore or even painful, especially before your period. They may also swell or feel lumpier at this time.

Evaluation

Cysts are not harmful. But breast lumps that are not cysts may be a cause for concern. Your doctor can tell you which lumps need to be evaluated. (As a rule of thumb, lumps that get smaller or go away after your period are probably cysts). A breast evaluation may include:

  • A health history and exam
  • Mammography (a breast x-ray)
  • Ultrasound (a test that uses painless sound waves to create images of your breast tissue).

If a lump is found that is not a cyst, the doctor may take a sample (core biopsy) or remove the lump (excisional biopsy). What’s removed is then examined to be sure it is benign.

Treatment

Treatment is needed only if you have symptoms that bother you. If cysts are large or painful, the fluid inside them may be removed. This can relieve pain. Some lifestyle changes may also help control symptoms. Ask your doctor about them. They include the following:

  • Limit caffeine intake
  • Wear a supportive bra, such as an exercise bra.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever when needed
  • Try taking vitamin E capsules, which may help ease your symptoms.

If needed, your doctor may prescribe medications to help relieve soreness and reduce lumpiness. These may include:

  • Birth control pills to control hormone levels during your menstrual cycles.
  • Other hormone pills.

You can do a breast self-exam and if you notice any new lumps or changes that might feel different than usual, contact us or schedule an appointment. It’s important to visit for regular exams and have a mammogram as often as suggested.