Occasionally, you may feel changes in your breasts, causing them to be lumpy or tender. These changes most often occur near the time of a woman’s period and are not a disease or increase your risk of cancer. However, monthly self breast exams are an important part of your healthcare. You should be aware of how your breasts feel on a regular basis. Knowing what is normal for you will help you detect any new changes that should be checked by your doctor.

Your breasts are made up of glands, fat, and fibrous tissue, which respond to changes in levels of hormones (progesterone and estrogen) during your monthly menstrual cycle, pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause. Breast changes may also be affected by birth control pills, implants, and hormone replacement therapy.

Fibrocystic breast changes are benign (not cancer) and can appear as lumps, thickening, pain and swelling. Any nipple discharge should be checked by your doctor.

Your doctor will advise you when you should get a mammogram (or possible additional views), ultrasound or biopsy if any abnormalities are noted. If a cyst is found, your doctor may suggest a fine needle aspiration or biopsy. Follow up depends on the results of theses tests.

Relief from symptoms of fibrocystic changes may be:

  • avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, cola, & chocolate)
  • take over the counter pain relief (Tylenol or Ibuprofen)
  • reducing your salt intake, especially the week before your period