What is fibrocystic breast disease?
Fibrocystic breast disease is a benign (noncancerous) condition in which the breasts feel lumpy and/or painful. This condition isn’t harmful or dangerous, but may be concerning or uncomfortable for some women. It is a very common condition and some statistics suggest that more than half of women will develop fibrocystic breast disease at some point in their lives.
What causes fibrocystic breast disease?
Your breast tissue changes in response to hormones, especially estrogen. An estrogen dominant environment is a risk factor for developing fibrocystic breasts. There can be an overt excess of estrogen or a relative deficiency of progesterone. The result is swelling and tender or painful breast lumps. In addition, you may also feel a lumpy thickening in your breast caused by an excess growth of fibrous tissue. Symptoms are typically most pronounced before menses but can occur during other times of the menstrual cycle as well.
Does fibrocystic breast disease increase my risk of developing breast cancer?
The short answer is no. It doesn’t increase your risk however it can make the detection of breast cancer more challenging because the increased density of the breast tissue makes it more difficult to detect potentially cancerous areas on mammograms.
Which treatments help fibrocystic breast disease?
Hormone balance: Estrogen and progesterone should be at healthy levels with a balanced ratio. Natural treatments that help support the liver are essential as it is the main organ involved in the metabolism and clearance of estrogen. Herbs like milk thistle, dandelion root and burdock root help in liver support. Supplements like DIM or I-3-C also help support healthy estrogen metabolism. Bioidentical progesterone taken during the second half of the menstrual cycle can help boost progesterone levels and alleviate symptoms. Your naturopathic doctor can perform lab work and create an individualized treatment plan according to your needs.
Digestion and elimination: Women with a slow transit time and less frequent bowel movements are also at risk for developing fibrocystic breasts. The longer it takes for stool to pass through the system the more toxins are reabsorbed into the blood stream putting extra stress on the liver. Supporting a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut by taking probiotics helps to decrease bowel transit time and increase elimination.
Dietary changes: Eliminating caffeine (coffee, black tea, soda, chocolate) from the diet is one of the most important measures to take. Also, studies have shown that reducing dietary fat intake to 20 percent of total calories resulted in a significant decrease in circulating estrogen in women with fibrocystic breast disease.
Iodine: Studies have shown that a deficiency of iodine may contribute to fibrocystic breast disease. Iodine supplementation should always be done under the supervision of your doctor as taking an excess of iodine can suppress thyroid function. Aqueous iodine is the form that showed the best clinical effect and is the only form that will not cause hypothyroidism.
Evening primrose oil: This essential fatty acid helps reduce inflammation and can reduce the pain and tenderness associated with fibrocystic breast disease.
Written by: Dr. Sarv Varta Khalsa