Fibro cystic breast disease is a term that is commonly used for describing lumpy and painful breasts. The word disease ends up scaring a lot of women. However, there is nothing to be scared about. First of all it is not a disease, but a condition. Second, it is not a cancerous condition.
Your doctor might have used the term chronic cystic mastitis, mammary dysplasia, diffuse cystic mastopathy, or benign breast disease. These are just some of the other names that fibrocystic breast condition is known by. It affects both breasts alike. There are cases in which initially one breast is more affected than the other one. However, over a period of time the other breast becomes equally affected.
It is a condition that affects more than fifty percent of the women. In majority of the cases, women who are diagnosed with fibro cystic breast disease fall between the age group of 30 and 50. The condition seems to gradually cease after menopause. This makes it clear that the condition is related to hormonal cycle.
Fibrocystic Breast Condition and Monthly Hormonal Cycle
Every month a woman’s body goes through hormonal changes in order to prepare the body for pregnancy. The hormonal changes cause the glandular tissue to grow and blood vessels to increase their activity. This is why your breasts become fuller right before your menstrual cycle begins.
If you do not get pregnant, then the new breast cells are killed off. As the new cells are being killed and discarded, they often cause scars on the glandular tissue. This scarring is termed as fibrosis. Since this process is repeated every month, the scarred tissues become rigid and lead to lumpy breasts.
This condition is characterized by several symptoms. It has been noted that the symptoms usually become worse two or three weeks before the menstrual cycle begins. Once the cycle begins, the symptoms ease off. However, this is not the case with every woman with fibrocystic breast condition. For example, some women experience breast pain that lingers for a whole month or so.
Fibro cystic breast condition is characterized by lumpy breasts. There can be a presence of single lump or multiple lumps in the breasts. In this condition, the lump or lumps will begin to grow in size right before the menstrual cycle begins.
The lumps will then shrink back to their original size once you begin to have your period. The lumps in fibrocystic breast condition are benign, with round edges and will move when you feel them. Unlike the malignant lumps, they are not attached to the surface.
Swollen breast is another common symptom of fibro cystic breast disease. The swelling starts two or three weeks prior to the beginning of the menstrual cycle and eases off once the menstruation has begun. However, it is not uncommon to find cases where the swelling persists for a longer time.
In some women the pain is quite severe, while in others it is quite mild. On the other hand, some women do not experience any pain. Like the other symptoms of fibrocystic breast condition, the pain usually begins before the onset of the menstrual cycle and ceases once the cycle has begun.
The discharge is usually clear and devoid of any blood, pus and smell.
Seek Medical Help
You might have noticed that fibro cystic breast disease symptoms are quite similar to breast tumor or cancer symptoms. However, there is no need to panic. When you first notice that your breasts are getting heavy, swollen and/or lumpy, it is best to seek medical help right away. The doctor, with the help of physical examination and other tests, will be able to determine whether the condition is cancerous or not.
Diagnostic Tests and Exams
Your doctor will first do a physical examination of your breasts. The doctor will check for any unusual lump in your breasts, underarm and lower neck area (this is where lymph nodes are located). If your doctor notices that the lump is hard, unmovable and anchored to the surface, he will ask you to go for further tests.
The ultrasound will help differentiate between fluid-filled cysts and solid lumps.
Ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create images, is able to provide a good evaluation of dense breast tissue.
If your doctor notices that your lumps are hard or in any way unusual, you will have to go for mammography. In this an X-ray examination is done of concerned area of your breasts.
A biopsy of your breast might be recommended by your doctor to determine hundred percent whether the lump is cancerous or not.
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What to Do After Diagnosis
If the diagnosis comes up negative for breast cancer and positive for fibrocystic breast condition, you can breathe a sigh of relief. However, this does not mean that you should now take your health lightly. Make sure that you have your yearly mammograms to ensure that there are no cancerous growths. You should continue to do breast self-examination on a regular basis. This will ensure that if you get any new lump, you will be able to spot it right away.
If the breast is bothering you too much, over the counter pain medicines like, Advil (ibuprofen) or Tylenol (acetaminophen) can be helpful. If these do not work, you can seek medical advice. Several studies have shown that short term use of anti-estrogenic drug called Tamoxifen (Nolvadex) is effective in relieving breast pain associated with fibro cystic breast disease.
Similarly, androgenic steroid drug called danazol (Danocrine) has also been found to be effective in relieving fibrocystic breast pain. However, both these drugs have serious side effects. That is why these drugs are available on prescription basis only and doctors only recommend short term use of these drugs.
What Else You Can Do
A bra that provides good support to your breast is quite helpful in this condition. You should try it. You can also try hot or cold compression on your breast to relieve swelling and lumpiness. Now that you know so much more about fibrocystic breast condition you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing it is not a disease.
It is also good to know that this condition does not make you more prone to developing breast cancer later on. Just keep a regular check on your health and you will be able to lead a healthy lifestyle.
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