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Health Watch Fibrocystic breast changes.

Mariam is thirty years old and is working as a teacher in a private school. Since Ramadan, she has a problem in her left breast. She is able to feel some soft tender lumps inside her left breast. In addition, the breast is painful at times. During every monthly period she has pain and discomfort in her left breast. During such times, she used to excuse herself from participating in any sports activities with her students because of pain. She knew from her friends that any mass in the breast is a red flag.<p>Mariam and her mother consulted me a week ago. I examined her and found small, soft masses inside the left breast which were mobile. She did not have any swellings elsewhere in her body, like arm pits etc. An ultrasound of her breasts showed some small bags filled with fluid. I reassured her that the soft masses were benign and not malignant. I prescribed some analgesics and Vitamins and asked her to see me if the swelling increased.

Mariam has Fibrocystic breast disease. It is a very common, non-cancerous (benign) breast condition. It has been observed in 60% of young women and tends to disappear after menopause. Women with fibrocystic breast disease have lumpy, painful breasts. Although once considered a disease, most experts now prefer to call them "fibrocystic breast changes." Fibrocystic breast changes are caused by fibroadenoma (which occurs in a much younger age) and fibroadenosis which usually occurs after 35 years.

The female breast is a complex gland that is made up of several different types of tissue. Each breast contains milk glands and milk ducts which can increase or decrease in both size and number, as and when they are needed.

The breast is also made up of fibrous connective tissue, fatty tissue, nerves, blood vessels and lymph nodes. Each type of tissue and structure within the breast reacts differently to changes in a woman's body chemistry, and this can affect both sensitivity and texture.

The cause of fibrocystic breast changes isn't completely understood. But the condition is thought to be associated with fluctuations of hormone levels during a woman's menstrual cycle.

Signs and symptoms of fibrocystic breast changes - Dense and lumpy breast - Feeling of fullness in the breasts - Pain and tenderness that tends to be generalized and may radiate to the underarm - Rarely a nipple discharge that's often greenish-brown in color - Breast cysts that are identified on breast ultrasound

Fibrocystic disease is more common in fatty women. Observations reveal that there is an increased incidence of fibrocystic breast changes in women who indulge in coffee, tea, colas, chocolates meat, fried food and other forms of fatty food.

Women should be aware of what their breasts normally look and feel like so that they can quickly pick up any changes which may occur. Monthly Breast Self Examination (BSE) is very important for all women. They should learn how to do it from their doctors and periodically review their technique(s) with their doctors to ensure that they're doing the exam correctly. It is better to schedule breast self-exams for a week after the period ends - when hormonal fluctuations decrease and breast tissue feels less lumpy and tender. People with sensitive breast tissue may experience difficulty in detecting abnormal lumps. However, it is important for women to get to know their breasts well so that they can easily track changes if any. Indeed, most of the lumps in breasts are picked up by women themselves rather than by their doctors.

There's no specific treatment for fibrocystic breast changes. Vitamins A, B and E, and selenium supplements may be useful in reducing the severity of symptoms. If the cysts are big and painful, they can be aspirated under ultrasonographic guidance. If there are multiple big cysts, they can be surgically removed.

Some simple measures, such as wearing a supportive bra with the correct fit, may provide relief from the pain and discomfort associated with fibrocystic breast changes. Food changes are also important. Avoiding fatty and fried food, red meat and reducing or limiting caffeine in the diet may help. Signs and symptoms of fibrocystic breast changes often go away completely after menopause.

A woman should consult a doctor if - She has severe or persistent breast pain or pain that is concentrated in one area of the breast. - She finds a new change or lump in her breast that persists for two menstrual cycles.

Some natural remedies with rewarding results Capsules of Star Flower oil (Borage oil) 500mg twice daily after food and Vitamin E 400mg once daily for a few months. Star Flower oil is nature's richest source of 'gamma linoleic acid' (GLA), an omega-6 essential fatty acid which is an excellent natural remedy for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), Menopausal problems, Eczema, Psoriasis and High Cholesterol. However, star flower oil should not be used in pregnant mothers, epileptics and cardiac patients.

Application of Chamomile oil and crushed leaves of cabbage on the breasts overnight held in position by a bra (to be changed twice if possible) offers good relief. Chamomile oil has excellent anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties that prevent infection and soothe and reduce pain and discomfort - acting as a natural pain reliever.

Women can be assured that fibrocystic disease of the breast is a purely benign condition and there is no risk of developing malignancy.

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Publication:Yemen Times (Sana'a, Yemen)
Date:Feb 8, 2010
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