Fibrocystic Breast Disease
by Sammie Ward
At least sixty percent of women between the ages of 30 to 50 are told by their physician that they have fibrocystic breast disease. This is a common non-cancerous condition that responds to monthly changes in the levels of estrogen and progesterone, the female hormones produced by the ovaries during a woman's reproductive years. Medical professionals use a number of names to refer to this condition. Common names are fibrocystic breasts, fibrous breast tissue, cystic breasts, or dense breast tissue.
Symptoms of Fibrocystic Disease
The most common sign of a fibrocystic breast is soft, movable lumps in the breasts, tenderness, cysts (packets of fluid), breast pain, and areas of thickness. The symptoms tend to worsen before a woman's menstrual period. It is during this time that cysts enlarge and the breasts retain water. However, after menstruation, swelling in the breast usually decreases, causing the breast to feel less tender and lumpy. For most women these symptoms are a temporary discomfort, but for many women the pain can be so severe that it precludes exercise or even lying on the abdomen.
The disease can be found in one or both breasts. This is the reason physicians highly recommend the practice of a monthly breast self-examination 7 to 10 days after menstruation. Because the breast tissue is at its normal size identifying any changes is easier. Most changes are found in the upper outside quadrant of the breast. The breast may have an irregular shaped area, a lumpy or ridge-like surface, or tiny beads scattered throughout the tissue. After menopause, symptoms of fibrocystic disease tend to subside or disappear completely.
Reducing Symptoms of Fibrocystic Breast Disease
There are several ways to prevent or reduce the symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease. One way is a change in diet. Avoiding caffeine in coffee, tea, and soft drinks may decrease symptoms. In addition, limiting exposure to nicotine, and reducing consumption of chocolate and sugar may also help ease symptoms. Some women get relief by following a low salt diet, which helps to decrease water detention. Decreasing estrogen intake can lessen the symptoms of breast disease. Sources of estrogen include certain meats and birth control pills. Taking vitamins E, B6, B complex, and magnesium can also help reduce symptoms associated with fibrocystic breast disease.
Treatment of Fibrocystic Disease
Although fibrocystic breast disease is non-cancerous, all lumps discovered must be reported to your physician to rule out breast cancer or to begin treatment if cancer is diagnosed. Once evaluated your physician will recommend the best treatment. Treatments include:
• Applying heat to the breasts
• Wearing a support bra (athletic), which may give relief
• Aspiration of the cyst with a needle and syringe in the physician's office
• Surgical removal (biopsy) of both breasts when the lumps fail to disappear after observation or attempts to remove fluid by the physician
• Having a mammography, or an ultrasound, if recommended by your physician
• Maintaining a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains
• Taking diuretics
• When recommended by your physician, taking aspirin or other pain relievers during the times of your cycle when your breasts are the most tender.
Guidelines for the Early Detection of Breast Cancer
The following guidelines should be performed once a month.
Women aged 20 to 39
• Check each breast all over.
• Use your finger pads.
• Go up and down the breast.
• Check under your armpit.
• Check for lumps, thickness, any changes.
Women aged 40 to 50
• Have a mammogram at age 40.
• Age 40 to 49, have a mammogram every 1 to 2 years.
• Age 50 and over, have a mammogram every year.
Information about self exams, breast anatomy and cancer is available at About Breast Cancer.com.
About The Author:
Sammie Ward is a fiction and nonfiction writer living in Maryland.
One of her favorite pastimes is writing short stories of passionate romance for confession magazines. She is also the author of four novels, In The Name Of Love, Love To Behold, Seven Days, and It's In The Rhythm.