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.

View Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) Slideshow Pictures

Why can fibrocystic breast condition be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer?

Fibrocystic breast condition that involves hyperplasia is associated with a slightly elevated risk of breast cancer, and atypical hyperplasia is associated with a moderately increased risk of breast cancer when compared to women without fibrocystic changes. This is because genetic errors (mutations) have begun to accumulate in cells that no longer respond normally to the signals that usually control cell growth and division. These cells may also have an impaired ability to repair any genetic damage. As the atypical cells increase in number, they accumulate additional genetic errors.

Environmental, dietary, and metabolic toxins may also interact with a woman's complex hormonal system to increase the risk of mutations and thus increase the risk of breast cancer. It has been demonstrated that individuals differ significantly in their ability to break down and remove toxins from the body. Some of this varied response to toxins may be due to inherited differences. The potential for DNA damage (leading to genetic errors or mutations), which can be caused by a variety of damaging agents combined with the stimulation of cell division, is what ultimately leads to the risk of breast cancer that is associated with some cases of fibrocystic breast condition. The ability to recognize and repair DNA damage, a process that cells must continuously perform, varies from person to person.

Why don't all women with fibrocystic breast condition have breast biopsies?

One reason to undergo a breast biopsy is to diagnose breast cancer. Another reason is to identify those women with fibrocystic breast condition who may have atypical hyperplasia and are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer in the future. However, it is important to note that the severity of a woman's symptoms and clinical signs of fibrocystic breast condition (pain and lumpiness) do not necessarily correlate with the severity or the cellular changes seen under the microscope. Therefore, it is difficult to single out every woman with fibrocystic breast condition for whom a breast biopsy would be useful.

Additional reasons why breast biopsies are not done on every woman with fibrocystic breast condition include: (1) the invasive nature of the biopsy procedure; (2) the necessity of anesthesia; and (3) cost-benefit considerations. Instead, most women with fibrocystic breast condition are followed over time as if they all are at an increased risk for developing breast cancer. The woman herself must ensure that her clinician is appropriately monitoring her on a regular basis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/2/2015
VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Fibrocystic Breast Condition - Experience

    What kinds of treatments have been effective for your fibrocystic breast condition?

    Post View 34 Comments
  • Fibrocystic Breast Condition - Diagnosis

    How was your fibrocystic breast condition diagnosed?

    Post View 19 Comments
  • Fibrocystic Breast Condition - Treatment

    What kinds of treatment, including medication, have you received for your fibrocystic breast condition?

    Post View 3 Comments
  • Fibrocystic Breast Condition - Breast Cancer Risk and Concerns

    If you have fibrocystic breasts, are you worried about developing breast cancer? Please share your concerns.

    Post View 4 Comments

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors