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Health Library : Women's Health

 

Fibrocystic Breast Changes

What are some common fibrocystic breast changes?

Generalized breast lumpiness is known under many different names, such as "fibrocystic disease" and "fibroid breasts." Many of these are misnomers since health care providers and researchers now believe that these are just part of the breast changes which many women undergo throughout the various stages of their lives. Many health care providers feel that this term has become a catchphrase for general breast lumpiness.

What do fibrocystic changes feel like?

Fibrocystic lumpiness is also described as "ropy" or "granular" and seems to become more obvious as a woman approaches middle age and the milk producing glandular tissue gives way to softer, fatty tissue. However, women with lumpy breasts may experience many other benign breast conditions.

Lumpiness in the breasts may make actual lumps harder to distinguish. Thus, it is important that women with lumpy breasts perform regular breast self-exams and have regular physical exams, including mammography as indicated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) or American Cancer Society (ACS) guidelines. Knowing the normal shape and feel of your own breasts is important, especially when performing exams to detect any unusual breast changes.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force does not recommend BSEs because evidence suggests BSEs do not lower risk for death from breast cancer. The ACS says BSEs are an option for women older than age 20 as a means of familiarizing themselves with their breasts so they can notice changes more easily. Talking with your health care provider about the benefits and limitations can help you decide if you should start performing BSEs.

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