Fibrocystic Disease

Fibrocystic disease occurs when there are fluid-filled cystic lumps of duct tissue. These lumps are surrounded by a scar-like capsule of tissue in the breasts. Although harmless, these lumps can sometimes be the site of pain ( mastalgia ) that recurs late in each menstrual cycle. The greatest problem with fibrocystic disease is telling the difference between this condition and breast cancer .

  • Causes

    The glandular tissue of the breasts cycles monthly with menstrual periods. It enlarges to prepare for a pregnancy, and then shrinks if one does not occur. This cycling causes cysts and excess fibrous tissue to build up. Virtually all women will have some form of this condition during their reproductive years. However, most women will not seek treatment.

  • Definition

    Fibrocystic disease occurs when there are fluid-filled cystic lumps of duct tissue. These lumps are surrounded by a scar-like capsule of tissue in the breasts.


    Although harmless, these lumps can sometimes be the site of pain (
    mastalgia
    ) that recurs late in each menstrual cycle. The greatest problem with fibrocystic disease is telling the difference between this condition and
    breast cancer
    .

    Breast Cysts
    Breast cyst2
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  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

    Tests may include the following:

    • Mammogram
      —Mammograms alone cannot distinguish between a benign cyst and cancer, a lump that does not show significant monthly changes must be evaluated by other tests.
    • Needle aspiration—If the fluid is removed, the cyst usually resolves.

    • Excisional
      biopsy
      of a suspicious area.

  • Prevention

    There are not current guidelines to prevent fibrocystic disease. The most important issue for you and your doctor is being able to distinguish this condition from breast cancer. Follow your doctor's guidelines for regular breast cancer screening.

  • Risk Factors

    All women between puberty and menopause are at risk for this condition.

  • Symptoms

    • Multiple lumps (cysts) will occur in both breasts that cycle with menstrual periods.
    • Cysts may produce no symptoms or cause pain and tenderness.
    • A fibrocystic lump may be difficult to tell apart from a cancerous mass. But, its rapid disappearance with menses and reappearance in the next menstrual cycle help to distinguish this condition from breast cancer.

  • Treatment

    Once it has been determined that the lump is not a cancer, it can be left alone. If the lump's identity is still in doubt, it should be biopsied.