Fibrocystic Disease

(Benign Breast Masses; Breast Cysts; Cystic Disease; Chronic Cystic Mastitis; Mammary Dysplasia)


Breasts are made up of ducts, milk glands, and fatty and fibrous tissues. Fibrocystic disease is when there are fluid-filled lumps (cysts) of duct tissue. These lumps are surrounded by a scar-like capsule of tissue in the breasts.

Breast Cysts

Breast cyst2
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Causes    TOP

The glands in the breasts change throughout the monthly cycle. They get bigger to get ready for a pregnancy. They shrink if one does not happen. This cycling causes cysts and fibrous tissue to build up. All women will have some form of this condition during their reproductive years. Most women will not seek medical care.

Risk Factors    TOP

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

Symptoms    TOP

These harmless lumps can sometimes cause pain that happens late in each menstrual cycle.

You may have:

  • Multiple cysts in both breasts that change with menstrual cycles
  • Cysts that may or may not be painful and tender

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Pictures may be taken of your breasts. This can be done with a mammogram.

It can be hard to tell the difference between this disease and breast cancer.

Treatment    TOP

No treatment is needed unless you have pain.

Fibrocystic disease may be safely treated with:

  • Over the counter pain relievers
  • Hormone medicines for severe cases
  • Warm packs
  • Wearing a supportive bra
  • Dietary changes, such as not drinkingcaffeine products.

Treatment may also include:

  • Needle aspiration—If the fluid is removed, the cyst usually goes away.
  • Biopsy (removal) of the suspicious area


After numbing the area, a small needle is inserted into the cyst. This is to draw fluid out.


There are two types:

  • A fine needle biopsy is like an aspiration. The only difference is that a tiny piece of tissue is also drawn out of the lump.
  • An excisional biopsy removes the entire lump through an incision. This can be done with local anesthesia if the lump is small.

Prevention    TOP

Fibrocystic disease can’t be prevented.


American Cancer Society
Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services


Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
Canadian Women's Health Network


Miltenburg DM, Speights VO Jr. Benign breast disease. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2008;35(2):285-300.
Phyllodes tumor of breast. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated June 23, 2014. Accessed July 24, 2018.
Last reviewed June 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kathleen A. Barry, MD
Last Updated: 7/24/2018

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