Fibrocystic breast changes once called fibrocystic breast disease is a common benign breast condition in which a woman has painful lumps in her breasts. Fibrocystic breasts are composed of tissue that feels lumpy or rope-like in texture. Doctors call this nodular or glandular breast tissue.
It's not at all uncommon to have fibrocystic breasts. More than half of women experience fibrocystic breast changes at some point in their lives. In fact, having fibrocystic breasts isn't really a disease.
Although breast changes categorized as fibrocystic breasts are normal, they can cause breast pain, tenderness and lumpiness — especially in the upper, outer area of your breasts. Breast symptoms tend to be most bothersome just before menstruation. Simple self-care measures can usually relieve discomfort associated with fibrocystic breasts.
Most fibrocystic breast changes are the result of monthly hormonal changes and are nothing to be concerned about. If you have fibrocystic breast disease, your breasts have more pronounced changes in response to these hormones. This results in swelling and tender or painful lumps. Symptoms are most common just before or during your period. You may feel lumps in your breasts caused by cysts (fluid-filled sacs) or swelling of your breast lobules (milk-producing glands). You may also feel a lumpy thickening in your breast caused by an excess growth of fibrous tissues. However, some may suggest a slightly increased risk of cancer. These may require other tests to confirm a diagnosis.
Fibrocystic breast disease doesn’t increase your risk of getting cancer, but the changes in your breasts can make it more difficult for you or your doctor to identify potentially cancerous lumps during breast exams. If you have fibrocystic disease, your doctor also may have difficulty detecting breast cancer in mammogram studies. Some cysts in fibrocystic breasts look or feel like cancerous lumps and require a biopsy.