Fibrocystic Breast Condition Fibrocystic Changes

  • 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.

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What are the symptoms of fibrocystic breast condition?

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 fibrocystic breast condition?

Fibrocystic breast condition is said to primarily affect women age 30 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.

Can fibrocystic breast 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.

Why is it important to diagnosis fibrocystic breasts?

The basic problem with fibrocystic breast condition is the threat of breast cancer. Fibrocystic breast condition is itself benign (non-cancerous) and exceedingly common. Additionally, breast cancer is a common malignancy in women. Both conditions, one benign and the other a leading cause of cancer deaths in women involve the same organ - the breast, and both can involve the presence of breast masses.

Fibrocystic lumps in the breast can closely mimic those found in breast cancer. They can also sometimes make breast cancer difficult to detect. Therefore, fibrocystic breast condition often makes both the patient and her physician quite concerned about the possibility of breast cancer. If a woman's breasts are fibrocystic, other diagnostic tests in addition to screening mammography may be necessary in order to rule out an underlying breast cancer.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/2/2015

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