Fibrocystic breast changes are a very common benign breast condition characterized by thickening, lumps and cysts (fluid-filled sacs) in the breast tissues. It affects more than 50% of women during their lifetime. It is more commonly found in women between 30 and 50 years of age.
Fibrocystic breast changes are also called fibrocystic breast disease. This name is misleading because it is not a disease and women who have fibrocystic breast changes do not have “abnormal” breasts.
For most women, fibrocystic breast changes do not increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
If a woman with fibrocystic breast changes has a family history of breast cancer in a first-degree relative (mother, sister or daughter), she is at a slightly greater risk of developing breast cancer.
Fibrocystic breast changes are thought to be related to the hormoneshormonesA substance that regulates specific body functions, such as metabolism, growth and reproduction. that control a woman’s menstrual cycle (estrogenestrogenA female sex hormone that causes the female sex characteristics to develop (such as breasts) and is necessary for reproduction. in particular).
Fibrocystic changes usually affect both breasts. Symptoms can vary with the menstrual cycle, often becoming worse before or during a menstrual period. The signs and symptoms of fibrocystic breast changes may include:
Women who take hormone replacement therapy (HRT)hormone replacement therapy (HRT)Treatment that replaces female sex hormones ( estrogen, progesterone or both) when they are no longer produced by the ovaries. may have more symptoms. Women taking oral contraceptives (birth control pills) may have fewer symptoms.
The symptoms of fibrocystic breast changes often go away after a woman reaches menopause.
If the signs and symptoms of fibrocystic breast changes are present, or if the doctor suspects fibrocystic breast changes, tests will be done to make a diagnosis. Tests may include:
Supportive therapy treats the symptoms caused by fibrocystic breast changes, but it does not treat the underlying cause of the breast condition. Supportive care options for fibrocystic breast changes may include:
If supportive care measures do not reduce the symptoms, or if the symptoms are severe, other treatment options may be offered.
While research has not shown that the following treatments are effective, some women may chose to:
The Canadian Cancer Society provides helpful information about government income programs, financial resources and other resources available to families struggling to make sense of the personal financial burden they face.