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Fibrocystic Breast Changes

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What are fibrocystic breast changes?

Fibrocystic changes are changes in your breast tissue. Your breast tissue may have small cysts, benign lumps (not cancer), or thickened areas. These breast tissue changes are common in women who have not gone through menopause. Fibrocystic breast changes do not increase your risk of breast cancer. The cause of fibrocystic breast changes is unknown. They may be related to hormonal changes that occur during your menstrual cycle.

What are other signs and symptoms of fibrocystic breast changes?

Signs and symptoms may be more noticeable before your period. You may have any of the following:

  • Tenderness and pain in the upper outer areas of both breasts
  • Cysts that get larger and more painful before your period
  • Breast swelling during your period
  • Clear or cloudy nipple discharge

How are fibrocystic breast changes diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your breasts. He or she will ask about your signs and symptoms, and about your family medical history. The provider may diagnose fibrocystic breast changes based on your signs and symptoms alone. He or she may also order certain tests to make sure you do not have breast cancer. You may need any of the following:

  • A mammogram is an x-ray to closely examine your breast tissue. Healthcare providers will also look for other lumps or tissue changes in your breast.

  • An ultrasound uses sound waves to look for a cyst or tumor.
  • Aspiration and fine needle biopsy is a procedure to find the cause of a breast lump. This procedure uses a small needle to collect fluid or cells from your breast. The samples are then sent to a lab. The drainage of fluid may also be done to help relieve pain.
    Needle Biopsy of the Breast

How are fibrocystic breast changes treated?

Your healthcare provider may recommend the following to relieve your symptoms:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Oral contraceptives (birth control pills) may be recommended by your healthcare provider. These may help to decrease the level of hormones that worsen your signs and symptoms.
  • Surgery to remove a large lump or cysts that return after drainage may be done.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Apply heat on your breasts for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed. Heat helps decrease pain and muscle spasms.
  • Apply ice on your breasts for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Wear a well-fitted, supportive bra. It may help to relieve pain and swelling.
  • Limit or avoid caffeine. This may help to decrease symptoms in some women. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, sodas, and chocolate.

Why is it important to continue breast self-exams?

Check your breast for changes in size, shape, or feel of the breast tissue. Check under your arms and all around your breasts. If you have monthly periods, examine your breasts after your period is over. Contact your healthcare provider if you notice any changes in your breasts. If you have questions, ask for more information about how to do a breast self-exam.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You notice other changes in your breasts or nipples, such as dimpling or a rash.
  • You have bloody nipple discharge.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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