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You suddenly notice a suspicious lump in your breast and are so scared. But your doctor tells you not to worry saying it is just a fibrocystic disease of the breast. Now what is this? Read on to find out answers to your many questions.

Many women are diagnosed with fibrocystic disease of the breast and are afraid what it may turn into in the future. After all it feels like a lump and as far as you know, lumps can be pretty dangerous. You need not worry on this count. Fibrocystic disease of the breast, commonly known as ‘lumpy breast’ afflicts almost 30% to 60% of the women around the world.

It is a completely benign growth of the breast tissue and is usually seen in women of childbearing age, between the ages of 30 and 50 and tends to decline once the women hit menopause. According to the new nomenclature, fibrocystic disease of breast is now called as fibrocystic breast condition.

Cause of fibrocystic breast disease condition

As breasts are a part of the female reproductive system, all the hormones that affect the menstrual cycle also affect the breast tissue. The most important of these hormones are estrogen and progesterone. Apart from these two, other hormones like prolactin, growth factor, insulin and thyroid hormone also influence fibrocystic changes in the breast tissue. Certain local hormones also play a role in the development of this condition.

During each cycle of the menstrual period, there is growth of the endometrial tissue under the influence of the reproductive hormones. This growth occurs in anticipation of pregnancy. Similarly, the glandular tissue of the breast also proliferates. The blood vessels supplying the breast tissue multiply; there is growth of the supporting tissue and increased metabolism of the breast tissue cells.

That is the reason why women complain of fullness of breast tissue before their periods. Once the periods are over, the breast cells, unlike the endometrial cells which are sloughed away with the menstrual blood, undergo a process of programmed cell death, or apoptosis. Local enzymes break down the cells of the glandular tissue and the resulting cellular fragments are further acted upon by inflammatory cells. There are times when this break down may lead to scarring (fibrosis).

When the secretions produced by the glands become entrapped in the scarred glandular tissue, a cyst is formed. Under the action of various hormones in the subsequent cycles, these fluid filled cysts become enlarged and can be as lumps by the women themselves, or by their physicians during routine examination. Certain cysts may remain small in size. Many of these pea-sized cysts may clump together to form a lump. The variation in the formation of the lump results in their different consistency when felt on palpation.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • “Lumpy Breasts - Fibrocystic Breast Condition”, published in Women’s Health, accessed on January 30, 2013.
  • “Fibrocystic Breast Condition”, reviewed by William C. Shiel Jr., on February 1, 2012, accessed on January 30, 2013.
  • “Fibrocystic breast disease: published on the November 16, 2011 issue of the Health section of the New York Times, accessed on January 30, 2013.

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