Common Fibrocystic Breast Disease Symptoms and What You Can Do About Them

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Some women may notice that their breasts feel lumpy. This is a very common symptom of fibrocystic breast disease. These “lumps” are actually fibrous tissue that is often very thick and can be felt through the skin. You may also hear this type of tissue referred to as “nodular” or “granular” tissue.

Fibrocystic breasts are relatively common, and though the word “disease” is attached, they are not usually any cause for concern. Many medical professionals simply use the terms “fibrocystic breasts” or “fibrocystic breast changes.”

In this article, we’ll talk about common fibrocystic breast disease symptoms, whether they are a cause for concern, and natural remedies for cystic breast tissue.

Fibrocystic Breast Changes: What You Need to Know

Fibrocystic breast changes refer to the development of fibrous tissue and/or benign cysts or lumps. These changes are natural, common, and generally not a cause for concern. Most women experience fibrocystic breast changes after age 30 and through menopause. It is uncommon for a woman to experience these changes after menopause, but when it does happen, it’s primarily in women using hormone therapy.

Doctors aren’t sure exactly what causes someone to develop fibrocystic breasts. Experts agree that reproductive hormones, especially estrogen, play a role. Alcohol may also contribute to the condition, especially in women 18-22.

Fibrocystic Breast Disease Symptoms

Fibrocystic Breast Disease Symptoms

Many women with fibrocystic breasts don’t experience any symptoms. Some women may experience the following:

  • Breast lumps or cysts that may or may not fluctuate in size according to the menstrual cycle
  • Pain or tenderness in the breast area
  • Pain, tenderness, or discomfort under the arms
  • Nipple discharge that’s green or dark brown in appearance 
  • Breasts that feel swollen, heavy, or full

Many women with fibrocystic breasts experience heightened symptoms during the menstrual cycle. Some of these symptoms may be discovered through a breast self-exam. It’s important to take note of anything out of the ordinary and discuss it with your doctor


ultrasound for Fibrocystic Breast Changes

If you think you are experiencing symptoms, your doctor may require the following tests or procedures related to fibrocystic breast changes:

1. Clinical Breast Exam

Your doctor will visually examine and feel your breasts and the lymph nodes under your arms and in your neck during this exam. Additional testing probably won’t be necessary if your doctor thinks the breast changes are normal. If your doctor finds abnormal lumps or other causes for concern, they will likely recommend a mammogram or ultrasound.

2. Mammogram

A mammogram is a type of X-ray that focuses on a specific area of the breast. A radiologist will examine the image once it is obtained to determine the next steps.

3. Ultrasound

An ultrasound is a type of test that uses sound waves to create an image of the breast. Ultrasounds are better at detecting dense breast tissue in younger women. Your doctor may want you to have an ultrasound at the same time as a mammogram or in place of a mammogram.

4. Fine-Needle Aspiration

This is a procedure that pulls the fluid from a lump or cyst. It can relieve the discomfort of a cyst or lump that is painful. Fine needle aspiration is a simple procedure done in a doctor’s office.

5. Biopsy

A sample of tissue is removed to be further analyzed under a microscope during a biopsy. Surgery may be required to obtain a tissue sample in some cases. A biopsy will reveal whether a lump or cyst is cancerous. 

Although fibrocystic breast changes are typically not harmful, it’s important to report any abnormalities to your doctor so they can assess the situation. The tests mentioned above will help a doctor determine whether your breast changes indicate a more serious condition, such as breast cancer. 

Fibrocystic breast changes can sometimes mimic or mask the symptoms of breast cancer. Lumps in the breast are common, but on rare occasions, they can be cause for concern. It’s important to talk to your doctor if you notice anything out of the ordinary.

Solutions for Fibrocystic Breasts Symptoms

Many women with fibrocystic breasts don’t experience any symptoms. If you have lumps or cysts that are tender, however, or you experience general pain in the breast area, there are a number of homeopathic remedies that can help. They include:

  • An iodine supplement may be useful as breast tenderness can be caused by an iodine deficiency. Iodine has an “anti-estrogen” effect that can result in a reduction of breast lumps, cysts, and sensitivity. Incorporating foods that naturally contain iodine into your diet may be beneficial as well.
foods that naturally contain iodine
  • The herbal supplement red raspberry leaf is also reported to help with fibrocystic breasts. Red raspberry leaf can be taken as a tea or tincture and helps balance hormones, which can relieve breast pain.
herbal supplement red raspberry leaf
  • Vitamin E may help improve symptoms. There is a lot of anecdotal support that vitamins help with symptoms, particularly vitamins A, C, and E.
  • Oil of primrose contains essential fatty acids that have helped reduce breast pain in some patients. Oil of primrose has long been used to treat PMS and menopause symptoms and can be taken in several forms, including pills and tea. 
Oil of primrose

There are also a few lifestyle changes that may help alleviate your symptoms:

  • Reducing fat in the diet may help decrease breast pain associated with fibrocystic breasts.
  • Some women report cutting out caffeine helped with their symptoms. 
  • Exercise is good but wear a supportive sports bra and avoid contact sports that might affect the chest area.
  • Some experts recommend a diuretic to decrease excess fluid in the body. 
  • Birth control pills may also be prescribed to regulate hormones.

In most cases, fibrocystic breasts are not a cause for concern. Most women do not experience significant symptoms. If you are experiencing pain or notice a new lump or tender area, you should speak to a medical professional. If you’re interested in taking a holistic approach to your healthcare, please contact Dr. Karen R Threlkel at 202-750-5429 or fill out our online appointment request form.

About The Author:

Picture of Dr. Karen Threlkel, Naturopathic Physician, Washington DC

Dr. Karen Threlkel, Naturopathic Physician, Washington DC

Dr. Threlkel received her degree of Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from The National College for Naturopathic Medicine (now called The National University of Natural Medicine) in Portland, Oregon. She also holds a Bachelor Degree in Kinesiology from The University of Maryland. She is licensed in Naturopathic Medicine by the Government of the District of Columbia Department of Health. Dr. Threlkel is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, past president & current member of the Washington DC Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

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