Fibrocystic condition of the breast

Fibrocystic condition of the breast refers to many vaguely defined benign breast conditions and symptoms. Breasts come in all shapes and sizes, with varying textures from smooth to lumpy. The tissues of the breast change in response to hormone levels, normal aging, nursing lactation, weight shifts, or injury; different types of breast tissue respond differently to changes in body chemistry. Fibrocystic breast condition may be called fibrocystic disease, although it is not a single, specific disease process. Variations or changes in the way the breast feels or looks on x-ray may cause the condition to be called "fibrocystic change," mammary dysplasia, mastopathy, chronic cystic mastitis, indurative mastopathy, mastalgia, lumpy breasts, or physiologic nodularity. Between 40-90% of all women have some evidence of "fibrocystic" condition,change, or disease. It is most common among women ages 30-50. This discussionfocuses on the tenderness, enlargement, and/or changing "lumpiness" that many women experience before or during their menstrual periods, when female hormones are preparing the breasts for pregnancy by stimulating the milk-producing cells and storing fluid. Swelling, with increased sensitivity or pain, mayresult. If pregnancy does not occur, the body reabsorbs the fluid, and the discomfort is relieved. Symptoms range from mild to extremely painful and can vary from month to month. This cycle of breast sensitivity, pain and/or enlargement can also result from medications like hormone replacement therapies, and others. Breast pain unrelated to hormone shifts is called "noncyclic" or "trigger-zone breast pain" and may be continuous, or cyclic. Trauma, such as a blow to the area or a previous breast biopsy, or sensitivity tocertain medications may also underlie this pain. The fibrocystic condition may be cited as the cause of otherwise unexplained breast pain.

Lumps which stand out from enlarged general breast tissue and aren't associated with hormone cycles may also be called fibrocystic condition. The concernwith such lumps is cancer. Noncancerous lumps are discussed here. Fibroadenomas are tumors of unknown cause which form in the tissues outside the milk ducts and aren't attached to surrounding tissue. They are most common in adolescents and women in their early twenties. Cysts are often painful fluid-filledsacs in the breast that are most common in women between the age of 30 and 50. Sometimes one area of breast tissue feels thicker or more prominent than the rest of the breast due to old hardened scar tissue and/or dead fat tissue from surgery or trauma; often the cause is unknown. Many other breast problemswhich are benign or noncancerous may be called "fibrocystic condition": disorders which lead to breast inflammation (mastitis), infection, and/or nippledischarge, dilated milk ducts, milk-filled cyst, wart-like growth in the duct, and excess growth of fibrous tissue around the glands.

Breast cancer is the concern in most abnormal breast symptoms. Tell a physician about any new breast lump. A physical examination is performed and the patient is usually referred for tests such as mammography and breast ultrasound. A cyst can be diagnosed by ultrasound. To relieve discomfort, the patient may have the cyst suctioned or drained. The fluid is sometimes sent foranalysis. In a breast biopsy, tissue is removed through a needle and examinedunder a microscope by a pathologist. A ductogram evaluates nipple dischargeby threading a very fine tube into the duct, injecting dye into the area, andexamining it. A positive response to appropriate therapies supports the diagnosis.

A lump which is benign can be left in the breast. Some women may choose to have a lump surgically removed. Infections are treated with warm compresses andantibiotics. Lactating women are encouraged to continue breastfeeding to promote drainage and healing. A serious infection may form an abscess which mayneed surgical drainage. Once a specific disorder is identified, treatment canbe prescribed. Symptoms of cyclic breast sensitivity and engorgement can betreated with diet, medication, and/or physical modifications. Over the counter analgesics such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), hormones or hormone blockers, or birth control pills may be recommended. Warm soaks orice packs, a well-fitted support bra, and breast massage can relieve symptoms. Many women report relief by reducing or eliminating classify term="Caffeine" type="print-hyplink">caffeine. Decreasing salt before and during the periodwhen breasts are most sensitive; Vitamins A, B complex and E and mineral supplements; a low-fat diet; elimination of dairy products; and evening primroseoil (Oenothera biennis), flax oil, and fish oils also help. Most benign breast conditions carry no increased risk for the development of breast cancer. However, a small percentage of biopsies will uncover a tissue pattern in some women that indicates a 15-20% risk of them developing breast cancer over the next 20 years. Strict attention to early detection measures, such as annual mammograms, is especially important for these women. There is no way toprevent fibrocystic condition. Some alternative practitioners believe that eliminating foods high in methyl xanthines (primarily coffee and chocolate) can decrease or reverse fibrocystic breast changes.

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