Fibrocystic Breast Disease: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH


Understanding Fibrocystic Breast Disease

Understanding the reasons behind fibrocystic breast disease and how to avoid it.Fibrocystic breast disease, like fibroids, PMS, and menstrual irregularities are all parts of the continuum of estrogen excess in your body. Fibrocystic breast disease tends to be one of the first symptoms of estrogen dominance. It can affect women of 20 to 50 years and even teenagers.

Let’s take a step back so that we can understand the concept of fibrocystic breast disease. When you are growing, estrogen is very necessary. It is most of the time balanced with progesterone. When your body produces estrogen in excess, it flows into different tissues of your body, including the breast, and then the fibrocystic breast disease can become an issue. Fibrocystic breast disease is a type of condition that causes breast pain, non-cancerous breast lumps, and cysts.

Most young girls begin their menstruation at the age of 10 nowadays even though historically, the menstruation period began between ages 14 and 16 as recently as one generation ago. Menopause occurs around age 50. This unprecedented extension of the menstrual lifetime can have a devastating effect on women. This is especially especially true for areas sensitive to high estrogen such as the breast and ovaries. The fluctuating estrogen level accounts for inflammatory tendencies with cysts and swelling common in women suffering from PMS.

Cysts are fluid-filled sacs found in the breast. The often feel soft and oval shaped, but a cyst which is deep within the breast may feel hard. A woman who has a cyst in her breast may experience pain, particularly if the cyst increases in size ahead of the menstrual cycle.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Fibrocystic Breast Disease?

If you are experiencing fibrocystic breast disease, you may experience the following:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Lumps in one or both breasts
  • Thickening of tissue
  • Increased swelling or lumps in one of your breasts compared to the other
  • Pain under your arms
  • A dark brown or green discharge from the nipple
  • Aching or sharp pain
  • Itching
  • Burning

Other symptoms may include:

  • Wandering tension
  • Irritability
  • Brain fog
  • Period pain and heavy bleeding

The symptoms are not static and can vary during your menstrual cycle as fluid changes in the breast are driven by hormone fluctuations. Changes in the breast as a result of hormone fluctuations also may appear during pregnancy

Types of Fibrocystic Breast Disease

Most fibrocystic breast diseases are the outcome of monthly hormonal changes. There are two types of fibrocystic breast changes:

Fibrosis: Fibrosis is fibrous tissue that is similar to a scar tissue. It may be hard to the touch and feel rubbery or firm.

Cysts: These are fluid-filled sacs. They may enlarge to the point that you can feel them. The cyst may enlarge and become tender before your period. It may be difficult to differentiate between a solid mass and a cyst because they tend to be movable and round.

Getting to the Root of Fibrocystic Breast Disease

Dysfunction in hormones is a major factor behind development of fibrocystic breast disease.When you are suffering from fibrocystic breast disease your breast feels enlarged and it can often become lumpy. Ultrasound can show multiple cysts, and this can be very uncomfortable. These cysts are often made worse during the menstrual cycle.

Fibrocystic breast disease is one of the signs of a body in hormonal imbalance. Most health professional, conventional doctors especially, will attempt to resolve this with the use of birth control pills. There are benefits to this, but at the same time it really just suppresses the symptoms and does not address the real, underlying cause of the fibrocystic breast disease.

If you have the symptoms mentioned above, check with your doctor to make sure that everything is fine. However, if you also have other symptoms, including possibly wandering tension, irritability, brain fog, as well as period pain and heavy bleeding, you need to think about what is really going on in your body that is causing these symptoms. These are not normal signs from your body. These are behaviors that your body is trying to send you a message, and the message is do not put more estrogen in the system.

Estrogen Dominance and Adrenal Fatigue

As mentioned earlier, fibrocystic breast disease is part of the estrogen dominance continuum. Estrogen dominance is the result of excessive estrogen over time. Symptoms of estrogen dominance also include PMS, fibroids, endometriosis, and cancer. Estrogen dominance is very serious in that it can start at an early age, even as a teenager, but often goes unnoticed. One possible cause of estrogen dominance is the intake of estrogenic compounds which are structurally similar to estrogen. Estrogen is very prevalent in the modern world. It exists in our food, from hormones in meat; it can even come from our garden. Xenoestrogens, compounds that act like estrogen, are present in chemicals that exist in many products including shampoo and plastic containers. So there is a host of places where we get estrogen.

Not only can estrogen dominance encourage fibrocystic breast disease, but it can also stimulate the tissue of the breast and can lead to breast cancer. Estrogen is largely secreted from the ovaries, adipose tissue(fat cells), and the adrenal glands.

Adrenal Fatigue and Fibrocystic Breast Disease

When the body is stressed and low on energy, the adrenal glands can shunt production of progesterone towards cortisol, the anti-stress hormone. When this occurs, progesterone levels drop as its building blocks are instead converted into cortisol. One of progesterone’s function in the body is to help balance estrogen function. Accordingly, a drop in progesterone leads to a rise in estrogen on a relative basis. This does not result in an absolute increase in the estrogen levels in your blood, but estrogen dominance is still present as the ratio of estrogen to progesterone is skewed, leading to estrogen dominance. If you have are overweight, then the increase in fat tissue also boosts estrogen levels. This increased estrogen can lead to fibrocystic breast disease, so look at fibrocystic breast disease as a symptom.

Remedies for the Fibrocystic Breast Disease

In many cases of fibrocystic breast disease, you need a breast examination to be able to ascertain the proper remedy. Your doctor may be able to help you remove the fluid to relieve the pain, but the fluid will likely return later. You can also try the following to assist you with mild discomfort:

  • Tips to combat and avoid fibrocystic breast disease.Reduce the amount of stimulants and caffeine you are consuming, such as coffee, which stimulates adrenal gland function.
  • Reduce stress and physical overexertion.
  • Use a supportive bra to avoid physical trauma to the cysts that can increase inflammation.
  • Stop or reduce taking synthetic hormone therapy. Bioidentical hormone replacement needs to be carefully considered to weigh the risk and benefits.
  • Use warm water or heating pad for any pain or discomfort.
  • Wear a sport bra while sleeping or during exercise for extra support.

Supplement Consideration:

  • Iodine supplementation (12-50 mg daily): fibrocystic breast disease and iodine deficiency are strongly associated. Iodine supplementation has been shown to improve fibrocystic breast disease.
  • Natural progesterone cream (20 mg topically): natural progesterone can help offset estrogen dominance and relieve fibrocystic breast pain.
  • Calcium D glucurate (200- 800 mg daily): Calcium D glucarate helps eliminate excess estrogen in the body, thereby decreasing estrogen dominance and improving fibrocystic breasts.

© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.


Fibrocystic breast disease

DrLam.com
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First let me thank you so much for your most informative, excellent article about progesterone. It offers me a great deal of hope, as I recognize myself in the list of symptoms you list under estrogen dominance. I am a new comer to your site and I am looking forward to reading it more thoroughly over the next few days and becoming more acquainted with your many contributions to healthful living.




2 Comments

  • Elaine Bunyan says:

    Thankyou for your informative sight. I have suffered severely from fibrocystic breasts since my mid 20s. I am now nearly 46.. I have taken lutynel non stop in the past which relieved symtoms but made me feel really flat…I decided to come off lutynel 8months ago, and the fibrocystic breasts came back in abundance..swelling etc. I was just about to go back on a hormone when all of a sudden the symtoms stopped! (Touch wood..I have had 2months of pain free breasts). Is there an explained reason for this? My brain fog has also cleared. The only change in diet or lifestyle..is that I have been working in extremely cold weather (I teach skiing) and perhaps more physically active. Could it be my age? The Chinese believe fibrocystic breasts is a circulation problem..? Any thoughts welcome Thankyou E x

    • Dr.Lam says:

      There are many possible reasons. Given your age, you may be approaching menopause and that has an automatic brake on estrogen which is the driver for fibrocystic disease.

      Dr Lam