Fibrocystic Breast Disorder

Fibrocystic (fy-bro-SIS-tik) breast disorder is the general term used to describe noncancerous lumps in the breast, such as the formation of fluid-filled sacs called cysts.

When Is a Breast Lump Not Breast Cancer?

It is estimated that more than half of all women experience the breast changes that are known as fibrocystic breast disorder at some time during their lives. The symptoms vary from person to person. Some women have no symptoms at all. Others notice a lump that feels like a smooth grape under the skin. These lumps, or cysts, are sometimes painful or tender to the touch.

What Causes Fibrocystic Breast Disorder?

* , the body releases hormones that cause the pockets in the breast to enlarge and hold extra fluid. At the end of the cycle, this swelling disappears, but fluid can sometimes get trapped in these openings. Over time, cysts can form.

Fibrocystic breast disorder usually affects women between the ages of 30 and 50 years. The lumps often are especially noticeable before and during menstruation * . When a woman reaches her 50s or 60s and stops menstruating, these symptoms usually disappear as well.

How Does the Doctor Know if the Lumps Are Not Cancer?

A doctor starts with a physical examination and mammogram, or x-ray of the breast, because benign * breast lumps often look and feel different from cancerous ones. If the lump turns out to be a cyst, the doctor may use a small needle to drain the fluid. If the fluid is bloody or appears unusual in any way, it may be sent to the laboratory for analysis. In most cases, no other treatment is needed.

If the lump is solid, a biopsy (BY-op-see) is performed. During this procedure, some or all of the tissue is removed and examined under a microscope for the abnormal cell shapes and growth patterns that indicate cancer. In 2015, researchers were continuing to investigate whether there is a connection between fibrocystic breast disorder and a woman's risk for breast cancer but had not yet reached a conclusion.

See also Breast Cancer • Cyst • Tumor


Books and Articles

Chinyama, Catherine N. Benign Breast Diseases: Radiology – Pathology – Risk Assessment. New York: Springer, 2013.


MedlinePlus. “Fibrocystic Breast Disease.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. (accessed December 7, 2015).

St. Luke's University Health Network. “Foods and Beverages to Avoid if You Have Fibrocystic Breast Disease.” (accessed December 7, 2015).


American Cancer Society. 250 Williams St. NW, Atlanta, GA 30303. Toll-free: 800-227-2345. Website: (accessed December 7, 2015).

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 409 12th St. SW, Washington, DC 20024-2188. Toll-free: 800-673-8444. Website: (accessed December 7, 2015).

* menstrual cycle (MEN-strooal SYkul) culminates in menstruation (men-stroo-AY-shun), the discharging through the vagina of blood, secretions, and tissue debris from the uterus that recurs at approximately monthly intervals in females of reproductive age.

* menstruation (men-stroo-AYshun) is the discharge of the blood-enriched lining of the uterus. Menstruation normally occurs in females who are physically mature enough to bear children. Most girls have their first period between the ages of 9 and 16 years. Menstruation ceases during pregnancy and with the onset of menopause. Because it usually occurs at about four-week intervals, it is often called the monthly period.

* benign (be-NINE) refers to a condition that is not cancerous or serious and will probably improve, go away, or not get worse.

Disclaimer:   This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.

(MLA 8th Edition)