Breast fibroids are non-cancerous (also called benign) nodules or tissues that cause painful swelling near the skin surface in women’s’ breasts. The tissues can be moveable and are often described as feeling rubbery.
Breast fibroids are relatively common, with as many as 60% of women over the age of 35 suffering from them at some point in their life. They typically occur in women over the age of 30 because they result from a cumulative effect of monthly menstrual and hormonal cycles. Hormone release is often accompanied by a buildup of fluids in breast cells, and the inability to remove fluids increases the cellular debris in the breasts.
Accumulation is slow and typically begins at puberty and continues through menopause. Once a woman hits menopause, the fibroids are less likely to occur and existing fibroids typically become less of a concern as estrogen and progesterone levels decrease.
Breast fibroids are referenced by medical professionals with a variety of other terms, including:• benign breast disease, • chronic cystic mastitis, • diffuse cystic mastopathy, • fibroid breast condition, • fibrocystic breast disease, • fibrocystic changes, and • mammary dysplasia. •
It is important to note that there’s no difference between the designation of “condition” or “disease” and that medical professionals now largely back the “condition” diagnosis because it more aptly fits the symptoms, progression, and causes, according to MedicineNet.
SymptomsSymptoms of the condition typically appear and worsen before menstruation and may disappear after the end of a woman’s period. Noting lumps or bumpy surfaces on the breast is the main symptom that women notice.
Other symptoms of breast fibroids can include:
- a full or heavy feeling in the breast,
- breast or nipple itching,
- changes in nipple feeling,
- dull to severe localized pains,
- burning sensations,
- persistent discomfort in breast and skin,
- premenstrual swelling, and
- unusually high sensitivity.
Diagnosis ConcernsBreast fibroids are typically benign and the symptoms they cause can vary widely, leading to some issues around their diagnosis. Doctors may not be able to feel the lumps they cause, and even some women cannot feel existing lumps during self-examination.
This is a concern since they are most-often diagnosed with a self of medical exam. Doctors will order a biopsy if they feel the tissue may be cancerous, but if there is no concern they may instead rely on a mammogram, even though this can still miss some tissue.
While some women experience limited tenderness and pain, others with fibrocystic breast condition have constant pain and many lumpy areas that can be easily felt throughout the breast, causing increased soreness and tenderness.
TreatmentsTreatments for fibroid breast condition include changes to daily habits, medicines, and surgery. Surgery is usually a last resort and often only considered when fibroids and fluid persist after medicines and daily habit changes are made.
In terms of medicines, doctors rely largely on synthetic androgen to help the tissue remove fluid and decrease in presence, though androgen can have some bad side effects. In cases where these may be severe, doctors will instead have the woman switch to oral contraceptives, which can help with hormonal levels.
Shifts to your diet are actually among the most-recommended changes when suffering from fibroid breast condition because these changes can help remove fluids and tissue with minimal side effects.
Typically, doctors recommend moving over to a low-fat diet, often vegetarian, because high-fat diets cause hormonal and estrogen imbalances linked to fibroids. High-fat diets also lead to weight gain and obesity, which can increase the risk for developing fibroids.
Women are also told to eat high-fiber fruits and vegetables; vegetables in the mustard family (such as broccoli and cauliflower); foods rich in Vitamin B (some rice, wheat germ, and yeasts); and more water.
Foods to avoid are high in caffeine, like soda and chocolate, and fried or sugary foods.
Condition CausesThe condition is believed to be largely the result of glandular breast tissue that produces and secrets milk – this tissue takes up a large part of the breast. As hormonal changes and cycles occur in women, estrogen and progesterone build up in the breast and cause these tissues to multiply and increase in size. This is the body’s preparation for a possible pregnancy.
These hormones and others send varying signals to breast tissue, causing them to expand or contract; accumulation of hormones mixed with various changes is believed to play a significant role in the development of breast fibroids. Not only is this linked to breast fibroids, but it is also responsible for the fluid retention and “fullness” many women experience in their breasts before menstruation.
The hormones at work in the breast are the same that manage the cycle of a woman’s uterus. While unused cells and lining of the uterus can be released from a woman’s body during menstruation, there is no similar mechanism for the breast tissue. Breast cells instead have a limited lifespan and go through an apoptosis stage where they die on a time schedule.
During apoptosis, the body releases other enzymes to remove dead cells, accompanied by inflammation in the tissue. Inflammation and the incomplete removal of dead cells can cause the scaring associated with fibrosis and allow tissue to accumulate, eventually forming breast fibroids.
The speed of which the tissue scars and accumulates varies by each individual.
Genetic LinksThere appears to be a genetic link for the formation of breast fibroids, but evidence is not yet conclusive around hereditary links.
The reason some scientists believe there is a genetic connection is because uterine fibroids – which often share causes and develop during similar times and under similar conditions – have a link to overproduction of fatty acid synthase (FAS). The study, first published by the American Journal of Human Genetics, also links the overproduction of FAS to tumors because the protein plays a role in tumor survival.
A possible genetic link for breast fibroids is extended because fibroids are linked to some tumors and breast cancers. The University of Helsinki found a link between mutations in the MED12 gene to breast fibroid development. This mutation is believed to also play a role, or at least be present in, many cases of breast cancers.Sources: