covers breast changes that feel lumpy, thick, and tender before your menstrual
period. It is not meant for women who have had a breast biopsy showing "atypia"
or "hyperplasia." These are cell changes that may lead to cancer.
What are fibrocystic breast changes?
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
changes are normal and harmless. They are not cancer, and they do not increase
your chance of getting breast cancer.
But having fibrocystic
breast changes can make it harder to find a lump that could be cancer. This is
a special concern if you also have a higher than normal risk for breast cancer.
So if you or a close family member has had breast cancer or if you have had
radiation treatment or a breast biopsy showing atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH), talk to your doctor
about how often you need a breast checkup.
See a picture of
breast anatomy .
What causes fibrocystic breast changes?
think that fibrocystic breast changes are linked to the hormone changes that
happen during your menstrual cycle. Each month, your body gets ready for a
possible pregnancy. It releases hormones that signal the breasts to make milk.
The milk (or mammary) glands get bigger, which may make your breasts feel lumpy
and tender. These symptoms go away after you start your period.
You are more likely to have fibrocystic breasts if your mother or sisters
have them too.
What are the symptoms?
If you have fibrocystic
breasts, you may notice the symptoms right before your menstrual period. They
probably get better by the time your period ends. You may find that:
- Your breasts are swollen.
feel tender or painful. Women often describe this as a dull or aching pain,
heaviness, or soreness.
- Your breasts feel lumpy. Your doctor may
call this "generalized breast lumpiness." Lumpy (cystic) areas feel thick. You
may have one or more lumps that are always in the same area and that grow and
shrink with each menstrual cycle. The lumps move if you push on them. (A lump
that is cancer usually does not move but feels stuck to your ribs.)
Symptoms can be on one or both sides and can occur up
toward and under the armpit.
Many women first notice fibrocystic
breast changes when they are in their 30s. At this age, your hormone levels
start to vary more than before.
How are fibrocystic breast changes diagnosed?
you notice a new breast lump, wait through one menstrual cycle. If it is still
there after your period, see your doctor for a breast exam. If you are not
having menstrual periods, see your doctor for a breast exam as soon as you
notice a new lump.