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Fibrocystic Disease

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

Definition

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

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

Risk Factors

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

Symptoms

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

A woman may have:

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

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

It can be hard to tell the difference between this disease and breast cancer. Pictures may be taken of the breasts. This can be done with a mammogram.

Treatment

No treatment is needed unless there is pain. Choices are:

  • Supportive care, such as dietary changes, a supportive bra, or warm packs
  • Medicines, such as:
    • Over the counter pain relievers like ibuprofen
    • Hormone medicines for severe symptoms
  • Needle aspiration to remove fluid from the cyst
  • Fine needle biopsy to remove tissue from the lump
  • Biopsy to remove the entire lump

Prevention

There are no known guidelines to prevent this problem.

RESOURCES:

American Cancer Society
http://www.cancer.org

Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services
http://www.womenshealth.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
http://www.cbcf.org

Women's Health Matters
http://www.cwhn.ca

REFERENCES:

Phyllodes tumor of breast. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113915/Phyllodes-tumor-of-breast. Accessed October 15, 2020.

Tan PH, Ellis IO. Myoepithelial and epithelial-myoepithelial, mesenchymal and fibroepithelial breast lesions: updates from the WHO Classification of Tumours of the Breast 2012. J Clin Pathol. 2013 Jun;66(6):465-470.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Elliot M. Levine, MD, FACOG  Last Updated: 4/27/2021