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Benign Fibrocystic Breast Disease

Painful Breasts

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Updated April 17, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

What Is Fibrocystic Breast Disease?

It is not uncommon for women to be told by their physician that they have fibrocystic breast disease or other benign breast conditions. Other terms women may hear include benign breast disease, chronic mastitis (inflammation), and mammary dysplasia.

Fibrocystic breast disease is usually a benign (non-cancerous) condition. Symptoms include swollen, tender breasts, and/or one or more lumps. Frequently, symptoms worsen just before a woman's menstrual cycle and lessen near the end. For the majority of women these symptoms are a temporary discomfort; however, some women experience severe pain.

Fibrocystic breast disease may affect one or both breasts. Women often discover the existence of this condition during a breast self-exam when they may detect a lump. As frightening as discovering a lump in your breast is, it's important to remember the majority of breast lumps are not cancerous. However, all breasts lumps must be investigated to rule out breast cancer and/or to begin immediate treatment if breast cancer is diagnosed.

Controversy exists about the name "fibrocystic breast disease." Some argue that fibrocystic breast disease is not a disease, but a common and harmless condition experienced by women as they encounter hormonal changes during their menstrual cycles.

Others argue that fibrocystic breast changes are a precursor for future breast cancer. Current research suggests that women with fibrocystic breast disease or other benign breast conditions are more likely to develop breast cancer later only if a breast biopsy shows abnormal breast cells. Most women with fibrocystic breasts will not have abnormal breast cells when a biopsy is performed.

What to Do When You Find a Lump in Your Breast

Call your physician to schedule an appointment and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the date of your last period?
  • When did you discover the lump?
  • Do you have a family history of breast problems?
  • Have you had any previous breast problems?
  • Have you had a previous breast biopsy or other breast surgery?
  • How does the lump feel? Is it hard or soft? Does it feel grainy?
  • How big is the lump? Has it grown larger or smaller since you discovered it?
  • Do you have any nipple discharge?
  • Are you taking any medications?

See: Understanding Benign Breast Changes

Diagnostic Methods

Your physician will examine your breasts manually to determine which, if any, diagnostic tools to use for further evaluation of your breast lump. These diagnostic tools include mammography, ultrasound, needle aspiration, and biopsy.

Steps to Reduce and/or Eliminate Symptoms Naturally


  • One of the most important dietary changes you can make to prevent or reduce the symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease is eliminating all forms of caffeine-containing foods from your diet. This includes foods such as chocolate, sodas, coffee and tea. Reducing sugar may also help reduce overall symptoms.
  • It may also help to decrease sources of estrogen from your diet, such as commercially raised meats. And don't forget about pharmaceutical sources of estrogen such as birth control pills.
  • According to Dr. John Lee's book, "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause," applying natural progesterone cream at a dose of "15 to 20 mg per day from ovulation until a day or two before your period returns will usually result in a return to normal breast tissue in three to four months." Dr. Lee further advises that once the desired results have been obtained, you should taper down your dose until you have reached the minimum dosage required for you to maintain your results. It's best to discuss this treatment with your physician before taking any action.
  • Dr. Lee also recommends the use of vitamin E in doses ranging from 400 to 600 IU per day to reduce symptoms associated with fibrocystic breast changes. Other vitamin suggestions include vitamin B6, a B complex, and magnesium. Be sure to talk to your doctor before you take any supplements.
  • If you have tried everything and still find yourself suffering with unbearably painful breasts, some physicians recommend wearing a good support bra during intolerable episodes.
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