Fibrocystic breast disease is a condition which is characterized by discomfort and lumpiness in one or both the breast. The condition usually affects females in the third decade of their life. Fibrocystic breast disease is a non malignant condition and tends to affect approximately 40-60% of all women. The symptoms associated with the condition tend to decline after menopause.
Fibrocystic Breast Disease Causes
Fibrocystic breast disease condition is primarily attributed to changes in hormonal and immune profile of the female. Under normal condition, the breast tissue undergoes changes during the menstrual cycle, which include increased blood circulation and growth of the fat cells of the breast tissue.
However, after the menstrual cycle is completed, the fat cells tend to degenerated and the debris and dead cells are removed from the breast tissue by the various lymphocytes or scavenger cells. In some females however, the scavenger cells fail to remove all the debris, which in turn result in accumulation of dead cells and fluid in the breast tissue. This results in the development of the disease.
The primary hormones responsible for the condition include estrogen and progesterone; however other hormones including growth hormone, thyroid hormone and growth hormone also contribute to the development of the disease.
Fibrocystic Breast Disease Symptoms
The symptoms associated with fibrocystic breast disease are experienced by females in the third decade of their lives. The severity of the symptoms experienced may vary from female to female depending upon the extent of inflammatory response, level of hormonal variation, efficacy of the scavenger cells, etc. Some of the key symptoms experienced include,
- Pain and discomfort in the breast. Most often the upper outer quadrant of the breast is involved.
- Sensation of fullness and heaviness in the breast
- Itching around the nipples with occasional discharge from the nipples which can be clear, red or bloody
- Many females complain of severe tenderness in the breast along with the presence of a palpable lump which usually changes in size during the menstrual cycle. The lump is often very tender to touch.
The diagnosis of the condition is based on physical examination of the breast. The lump is often soft and palpable and mobile (i.e. not adherent to any organ below). A mammogram or a special breast ultrasound may help confirm the diagnosis. In some patients a histo-pathological examination may be required to differentiate the condition from breast cancer.
The fibrocystic breast disease persists through life, but the symptoms tend to subside after menopause. The prognosis of the condition in general is good provided the individual ensures regular follow up exams, to reduce the risk of development of breast cancer. Females with fibrocystic breast disease are at a two to six folds higher risk of developing breast cancer.
The treatment modalities comprise of using breast support, non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or the use of hormone replacement therapy for the management of the condition. Certain vitamins and herbal supplements have also been found to be beneficial in the management of the condition, however there is little scientific information available in this regards.