Fibrocystic Breast Condition
(Cysts, Fibrosis, Lumps)

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Breast Pain Symptoms

Many women experience mild monthly breast pain in conjunction with their menstrual periods. For some women, however, the pain can be more severe. This premenstrual breast pain is referred to as cyclic breast discomfort.

Much less common causes of breast pain include benign growths in the breasts (including cysts such as in fibrocystic breast condition), breast cancer, and certain medications. Breast pain is called mastodynia, mastalgia, or mammalgia by physicians.

Fibrocystic breast condition definition and facts

  • Fibrocystic breast condition is lumpiness in one or both breasts.
  • For some women, symptoms of fibrocystic breast condition include breast tenderness and breast pain.
  • Fibrocystic breast condition is a very common and benign condition.
  • Normal hormonal variation during the menstrual cycle is the primary contributing factor to fibrocystic breast condition.
  • Fibrocystic breast condition is a cumulative process that mainly affects women over 30 years of age.
  • The foremost concern is not fibrocystic breast condition itself but the threat of breast cancer.
  • The lumps in fibrocystic breast condition can mimic and mask breast cancer.
  • Recommended measures for women with fibrocystic breast condition include learning about the problem and its symptoms; having regular breast exams by a health care professional; and having regular mammograms.
  • Treatment of fibrocystic breast condition aims at the relief of breast pain and tenderness and correction of menstrual irregularities.

What are fibrocystic breasts?

Fibrocystic breasts are characterized by lumpiness and usually discomfort in one or both breasts. The lumpiness is due to small breast masses or breast cysts. The condition is very common and benign, meaning that fibrocystic breasts are not malignant (cancerous). Fibrocystic breast disease (FBD) is now referred to as fibrocystic changes or fibrocystic breast condition, is the most common cause of "lumpy breasts" and affects more than 60% of women. The condition primarily affects women between the ages of 30 and 50, and tends to resolve after menopause.

The diagnosis of fibrocystic breasts is complicated by the fact that the condition can vary widely in its severity.

Picture of the anatomy of the breast
Picture of the anatomy of the breast

What are the symptoms of lumps, cysts, or fibrosis of the breasts?

In some women, the symptoms of fibrocystic breast condition can be very mild with minimal breast tenderness or pain. The symptoms can also be limited in time, usually occurring only premenstrually. It may not even be possible to feel any lumps when the breasts are examined by the woman herself or by her doctor. In other women with fibrocystic breasts, the painful breasts and tenderness are constant, and many lumpy or nodular areas can be felt throughout both breasts.

Which women are more likely to develop the condition?

Fibrocystic breast condition primarily affects women 30 years of age and older. The reason for this is that the condition likely results from a cumulative process of repeated monthly hormonal cycles and the accumulation of fluid, cells, and cellular debris within the breast. The process starts with puberty and continues through menopause. After menopause, fibrocystic breast condition becomes less of a problem.

Is there a difference between fibrocystic breast condition and fibrocystic breast disease?

No. In the past, fibrocystic breast condition was often called fibrocystic breast disease. However, it is not a disease, but a condition. Most women tend to have some lumpiness in their breasts. Therefore, it is now being more appropriately termed fibrocystic breast condition. The abbreviation is FCC (an acronym derived from FibroCystic breast Condition).

Other names that have been applied to fibrocystic breast condition include mammary dysplasia, chronic cystic mastitis, diffuse cystic mastopathy, and benign breast disease (a term that includes other benign breast disorders, including infections).

Can the condition affect just one breast?

Not usually. As a rule, fibrocystic breast condition tends to be symmetrical (bilateral) and affects both breasts. A woman can have more fibrocystic involvement in one breast than in the other. The less affected breast, however, often "catches up" over the years, and eventually both breasts become almost equally fibrocystic.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/13/2017

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