Fibrocystic breast disease is a common condition that affects many women. In this condition, visible lumps occur in one or both breasts, accompanied by pain and discomfort. These lumps are non cancerous and are a result of cysts. This condition is common in women in the age group 30 to 50 and it rarely occurs after menopause.
People affected with this condition have thick breasts that feel heavy and swollen. Apart from breasts, pain and discomfort under the arms are also common. The severity of pain and other symptoms varies in different women. Some women may experience tolerable pain while others go through extreme pain.
Causes of Fibrocystic Breast Disease
Fibrocystic breast disease affects the glandular and connective tissues of the breast. The glandular tissues are involved in active production of milk and its secretion. There are various factors that lead to the formation of cyst in these tissues.
Variation in Female Sex Hormones
Estrogen and progesterone are two female sex hormones that play a major role in a woman’s life cycle. These hormones are responsible for menstruation and the changes that occur in a woman’s body every month. A prominent variation in the level of these hormones can cause accelerated growth and multiplication of the cells in the breast, leading to the formation of cysts.
This hormone is responsible for stimulation of milk. An increase in the levels of this hormone is found among most women affected by fibrocystic breast disease. This hormone is also a causative agent.
Synthetic hormones in the environment along with growth hormones and estrogens that are present in meat and dairy products affect the human hormone levels and stimulate the onset of fibrocystic breast disease. The increased level of estrogen leads to formation of cyst, inflammation and swelling, which are common symptoms of this disease. Synthetic estrogens are also present in oral contraceptives.
Other Hormones and Hormonal Products
Other hormones like insulin, growth factor and thyroid have their influence on the breast tissues. Certain hormonal products are produced by the glandular cells and fat cells of the breast. The signals sent from these hormones and its products to the breast cells play a significant role in the development of cysts. These hormonal products also elevate the effects of estrogen and progesterone.
Post Menstruation Changes in The Breast
After menarche, every month the breasts are prepared for pregnancy. The changes in the breast include growth of glandular cells, increase in cell metabolism and increase in the activity of blood vessels. These changes result in fuller looking breast before menstrual period.
After the periods, these extra cells undergo cell death. In this process, certain activated enzymes break down these cells, which are further broken down by specialised cells. At times, certain cells that are not broken down completely, lead to inflammation and formation of cysts in the glandular tissues of the breast.
Iodine plays an important role in the cell death that occurs in the breast after menstruation. Iodine acts as an important trigger and helps in the initiation and completion of the process. Therefore, a deficiency in iodine causes the extra cells to build up and form lumps associated with this disease.
Water Retention in Milk Glands
Breasts expand prior to menstruation and contracts post menstruation. This constant expansion and contraction of the tissues in the breast can cause swelling and water retention in the milk glands. This can cause fibrocystic breast disease.
A diet rich in salt, trans fat and saturated fat can contribute to the formation of cysts and inflammation. Fat in any form is known to increase the production of estrogen. Apart from fat, excess coffee is also known to cause inflammation.
Certain theories suggest that people with a family history of fibrocystic breast disease are prone to this disease. This disease can be hereditary only when the direct family members are affected.
Fibrocystic breast disease does not increase the risk of cancer. Any lump should be properly examined by an expert to confirm it as benign.
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