Fibrocystic breast changes


We have had an article about managing your breast cancer with information extracted from the Ferri’s Netter patient advisor, from the same book, let’s look at managing your fibrocystic breast changes. Let’s get this started.


Fibrocystic breast changes is the new term which refers to several different breast conditions. It includes older terminology like fibrocystic breast disease.

It is the most common benign (noncancerous) breast condition.

In this condition, the breast tissue forms cysts (sacs filled with fluid), which fill like smooth, firm, movable lumps. These changes also lead to thickening throughout the breast, be in one area, or appear as one or more large lumps.

Approximately 60% to 75% of all women will have changes in fibrous tissue in their breasts. 

Fibrocystic changes occur most often in women 30 to 50 years old. Only 10% of women younger than 21 are affected.

Fibrocystic breast changes
Fibrocystic breast changes


There’s no limpid aetiology – hormones made by the ovaries may be vital. These hormones often stop after menopause.


These can be mild to severe. Up to 50% of women have no symptoms.

Common symptoms are cyclic general pain and swelling in both breasts, with the worst symptoms just before periods.

Breasts feel full, with dull, severe pain and tenderness to pressure or touch.

Breast tissue is dense and feels lumpy, as it contains pebbles.

A ropy thickening, especially in the upper outer parts of the breast, may also be present.


Diagnosis is made based on symptoms and examination. We may order a mammography and ultrasound examinations. A biopsy may rarely be needed to rule out other conditions.

Read this article: Endometriosis: Let’s manage it.


Most women only need pain relievers like Panadol and NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, and good support (a well-fitting bra worn day and night).

Avoiding caffeine (coffee, tea, cola, chocolate), lowering fat in the diet, using heat (heating pad or hot water bottle), and taking vitamins and herbal preparations may also help.

Cold compresses or ice may also work.

A monthly breast examination is crucial.

Severe symptoms can be relieved by advanced pain relievers, diuretics, or hormones (birth control pills).

Cysts may be drained through aspiration using a needle.

A biopsy is helpful for cysts that don’t remit after aspiration to rule out other conditions.

DOs and DON’Ts in managing fibrocystic breast changes

  • Do become familiar with the typical feel of your breasts by monthly breast self-examinations.
  • Do contact your health care provider if you have changes in symptoms or feel something different during your self-examination
  • Do wear a well-fitting support bra, especially during exercise or vigorous activity.
  • DON’T use too much caffeine
  • DON’T skip mammograms or other routine breast health care.

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