What are fibrocystic breast changes?

Fibrocystic breast change is a common noncancerous condition that affects mostly premenopausal women. The condition results in "lumpy" cystic changes in the breast tissue. It can be constant or cyclical (every month). It was formerly known as fibrocystic breast disease, but as there is no real disease or disorder, it is now called fibrocystic breast changes.

Who experiences fibrocystic breast changes?

Fibrocystic breast changes are most common in women ages 20 to 50. It is extremely rare in women past menopause not receiving hormonal replacement. It affects an estimated 50% of women between the ages of 20 and 50. Fibrocystic changes are the most frequent lesion of the breast.

Drinking alcohol may increase the risk of fibrocystic breast changes, especially in young women between 18 and 22 years of age. Caffeine is also thought to contribute to the severity of fibrocystic breast changes and pain, but this is still up for debate in the medical community.

What causes fibrocystic breast changes?

While the exact mechanism is unclear, fibrocystic breast changes are believed to be caused by fluctuating levels of hormones, especially estrogen, during the menstrual cycle.

What are the symptoms of fibrocystic breast changes?

Fibrocystic breast changes encompass a wide variety of symptoms, including:

  • Breast tenderness or discomfort, which can worsen during the immediate premenstrual period.
  • The sudden appearance or disappearance of palpable benign masses in the breast.
  • Lumpy, free-moving masses in the breast, often near the armpit. These are often asymptomatic (cause no pain) and are discovered by accident or during breast self-exams.

Symptoms can worsen after age 30, and intensify again after age 35.

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