Many women have breasts that feel lumpy, thick, and tender, especially right before their periods. These symptoms are called fibrocystic breast changes. They may also be called cyclic breast changes, because they come and go with your menstrual cycle.
The changes in fibrocystic breast disease are characterised by the appearance of fibrous tissue and a lumpy, cobblestone texture in the breasts. These lumps are smooth with defined edges, and are usually free-moving in regard to adjacent structures. The bumps can sometimes be obscured by irregularities in the breast that are associated with the condition. The lumps are most often found in the upper, outer sections of the breast (nearest to the armpit). Women with fibrocystic changes may experience a persistent or intermittent breast aching or breast tenderness related to periodic swelling. Breasts and nipples may be tender or itchy.
The exact mechanism of the condition is not fully understood, though it is known to be tied to hormone levels, as the condition usually subsides after menopause and is also related to the menstrual cycle. Fibrocystic breast changes is a cumulative process, caused partly by the normal hormonal variation during a woman's monthly cycle. The most important of these hormones are estrogen, progesterone and prolactin.