Fibrocystic Breasts

Fibrocystic breast change is a common noncancerous condition that mostly affects women who are premenopausal. Fibrocystic breast changes encompass a wide range of symptoms, including breast tenderness or the sudden appearance of masses in your breast. In most cases, no treatment is needed.


What are fibrocystic breasts?

Fibrocystic breasts is a common condition resulting in “lumpy” changes in your breast tissue. These changes might be constant or could fluctuate with your period.


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Who experiences fibrocystic breast changes?

Fibrocystic breast changes are most common in people who are premenopausal aged 20 to 50, affecting an estimated 50% of those in this age group. The condition is extremely rare in people who are past menopause and not receiving hormonal replacement.

Drinking alcohol may increase the risk of fibrocystic breast changes, especially in young people who were designated female at birth (DFAB) and are between 18 and 22 years of age. Caffeine is also thought to contribute to the severity of the condition, but this is still up for debate in the medical community.

Is fibrocystic breasts a disease?

No. The condition was previously called fibrocystic breast disease, but healthcare providers have stopped using this term for a couple of reasons. First, it’s common to have fibrocystic breasts. In fact, they’re quite normal. Secondly, just because you have fibrocystic breasts doesn’t mean you have a health problem. This condition is now simply referred to as fibrocystic breast changes.


Possible Causes

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 your menstrual cycle.

How do fibrocystic breasts affect my body?

Fibrocystic breast changes can be accompanied by a range of other symptoms, including:

  • Breast discomfort or tenderness, which can worsen just before your period.
  • The sudden formation of masses in your breast, which may also disappear just as quickly.
  • Free-moving, lumpy masses in your breast, often near your 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.


Care and Treatment

How are fibrocystic breast changes treated?

In most cases, no treatment is needed for fibrocystic breast changes once your doctor has ruled out cancer. Any associated discomfort can typically be managed at home with over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium.

If you’re suffering from pain or discomfort due to fibrocystic breast changes, you should wear a good, supportive bra both day and night when symptoms are worse. You should also avoid contact sports and other activities that could cause injury to your breasts. Steering clear of caffeine is a good idea, too, as coffee, tea, soda and chocolate can all trigger uncomfortable symptoms.

Care at Cleveland Clinic

When To Call the Doctor

When should fibrocystic breasts be evaluated by my healthcare provider?

Any changes in your breast tissue should be brought to the attention of your healthcare provider immediately to rule out serious issues. They’ll first want to see if the growth is cancerous or benign. The first steps in doing this are often mammograms or ultrasound scans. Ultrasounds alone may be used for younger people, as their breast tissue is often too dense to evaluate with mammography. Your healthcare provider can use these imaging tests to determine the nature of the mass.

In some instances, your healthcare provider might also perform a biopsy to get a sample of the tissue. This helps determine if a lump is solid or a cyst, and whether or not it’s cancerous. A cyst can sometimes even be removed during your biopsy.

Masses can recur in people with fibrocystic breast changes. If you develop more masses in the future, tell your healthcare provider right away.

Additional Common Questions

What is the outlook for fibrocystic breast changes?

People with fibrocystic breast changes lead normal, fulfilling lives. Keep in mind, however, that any new growth in your breasts should be evaluated promptly. This will help rule out cancer and any other serious health problems.

People with some types of fibrocystic breast changes are at higher risk of cancer. Your doctor can advise and monitor you if this is the case.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Fibrocystic breast changes are normal and aren’t associated with any disease or health condition. Just be sure to inform your healthcare provider of any new growths or masses in your breast tissue. Regular checkups are recommended for optimal health and wellness.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 11/24/2021.

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