Natural Remedies for Fibrocystic Breast Disease
Fibrocystic breasts are quite common in women, with over 50% experiencing some form of fibrocystic breast changes at one point or another. Doctors and medical professionals have actually stopped calling the condition a disease, but now merely refer to them as fibrocystic breast changes, as the condition does not really involve any serious risks that can cause it to be considered a disease.
What is Fibrocystic Breast Disease?
‘Fibrocystic breasts’ is the term given to breasts made of tissues that have a rough, rope-like, or lumpy texture. This is called glandular breast tissue, which is otherwise known as nodular breast tissue.
Although the occurrence of fibrocystic breast changes is completely normal, they can still lead to discomfort, pain, and tenderness in the breasts, particularly in their upper and outer areas. These symptoms are not usually harmful; however, they may become increasingly irritating especially before the onset of menstrual flow.
Even if it is normal for fibrocystic breast changes to occur, it is still important to have them checked by a doctor if the pain persists and worsens in time, or if new lumps continue to form and thicken. A medical check-up can ensure that nothing is wrong, or can help evaluate whether the new changes are a cause for concern.
The exact causes of fibrocystic breast changes are still unknown up to this day. However, it has been a common observance that hormones released by the ovaries can make the breasts feel swollen and tender right before menstruation occurs each month.
Women who have irregular cycles are also more likely to suffer from fibrocystic changes, as their symptoms are more prominent and prove to be more cumbersome. This is most likely because the irregularity in menstrual flow also causes inconsistencies in hormonal simulation for the breasts. In general, regular cycles allow the tissues of fibrocystic breasts to recover and regenerate more completely after each cycle has passed.
Physical abnormalities and conditions caused by unusual hormone levels may also lead to the development of fibrocystic breasts. These conditions include diabetes and thyroid dysfunction, among others. The irregularities in hormone levels that are associated with these conditions may also be causing the development of fibrocystic breasts, which makes it even more important that they be given treatment immediately.
It has also been noted that up to half of all women experience this condition throughout their lifespans, with the most common ages being within the 20-45 range. Unless estrogen is being taken for hormone therapy, fibrocystic breast changes hardly occur after menopause has kicked in.
Some of the symptoms of fibrocystic breast changes include the following:
- Discomfort and/or pain in the areas under the arms.
- Unexplainable nipple discharge that leaks even without pressure being applied to the breasts. This discharge is usually green or dark brown and is not mixed with blood.
- A general feeling of tenderness and pain in the breasts. The pain usually increases from the time ovulation starts to just before menstruation, but can fluctuate and last for any number of days throughout the month.
- Areas on the breasts with skin that is thicker than usual. These thick areas have a tendency to blend and merge with surrounding tissues. The changes normally occur in both breasts, instead of just one of them.
- Lumps that fluctuate in size, getting bigger before each menstrual cycle and smaller again after each one ends. These lumps move when prodded gently with the fingers and do not feel fixed or stuck to their surrounding tissues.
Symptoms usually weaken and even disappear after the onset of menopause. Taking birth control pills can also lessen the number of symptoms that signal fibrocystic changes, while hormone therapy, on the other hand, can increase them. Symptoms are usually at their worst right before menstruation, and then get better once it starts.
It may be prudent to contact a healthcare provider if any of the following symptoms occur:
- Puckering and redness of the skin in the breast area.
- Flattening or abnormal indentation of one or both nipples.
- Persistence of new and different lumps on the breast after breast self-examination.
- Appearance of any kind of discharge from the nipples. The discharge may be bloody, clear, or even both.
If symptoms are mild and are not very painful or bothersome, there is usually no need for treatment. However, if treatment seems to be necessary, the doctor may recommend taking over-the-counter medications such as anti-inflammatory medications, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen. Hormones, most notably birth control pills, may also help. Surgery, however, is never considered an option when treating fibrocystic breasts.
Several home remedies can also help alleviate the pain and discomfort brought about by fibrocystic breasts. These remedies include:
- Avoiding excess fat in the diet.
- Applying a hot or cold compress on painful areas to ease any pain and discomfort.
- Wearing firm, well-fitting underwear. Sports bras are essential while exercising and sleeping, particularly when breasts are very sensitive.
- Taking oral contraceptives in order to stimulate the hormones. This works especially well for women with irregular cycles, who are more likely to suffer from fibrocystic changes because of lack of hormonal stimulation to their breasts.
- Decreasing caffeine intake. Although caffeine has not been scientifically proven to have a guaranteed link with fibrocystic breasts, many women have testified that staying away from caffeinated beverages can help relieve discomfort in the breasts.
- Reducing or completely stopping estrogen intake and hormone therapy, especially after a hysterectomy, or if menopause has already occurred. It may be a good idea to take a break from estrogen for up to five days at a time. Creating a working schedule can help the body cope with the excess hormone supply by temporarily removing the nonstop stimulation that the estrogen provides the breast tissues. However, it is important to consult with a doctor first before making any changes.
Mayo Clinic. Fibrocystic Breasts.
MedlinePlus. Fibrocystic breast disease.
MedicineNet. Fibrocystic Breast Condition.