As one of the most prominent parts of a woman’s body, the breasts receive a lot of attention from a number of organizations that either raise awareness for breast cancer or break societal stigmas that are often associated with the area.
However, as much as we appreciate the beauty and function of the breasts, they are still prone to conditions that affect their appearance, function, and even texture. One of the most common conditions associated with the breasts, aside from breast cancer, is having fibrocystic breasts.
What are fibrocystic breasts?
Fibrocystic breasts, or fibrocystic breast condition, are characterized by lumps or masses in one or both breasts. This affects 60% of women between the ages of 30 to 50. However, it is good to emphasize that it is not a disease but rather, a condition that women commonly have and usually subsides after menopause.
What are the symptoms of fibrocystic breasts?
While fibrocystic breasts are common, it is not without symptoms. These symptoms, however, are only present for a short period, usually before or during the menstrual period.
Signs and symptoms of fibrocystic breasts include:
- Lumps on one or both breasts
- Discomfort and pain
- Non-bloody discharge
These symptoms will also get worse just before the monthly cycle and may persist for about a month.
What causes fibrocystic breasts?
The exact cause of fibrocystic breasts has not been conclusively identified yet. However, the development and continuing existence of this condition is speculated to be directly connected to:
- Major female hormonesduring the menstrual period
- Dietary influences.
How are fibrocystic breasts diagnosed and treated?
A basic way of detecting lumps is through self-examination by palpation. The lumps are usually felt on the upper quadrant of the breasts and may be perceived as rounded with smooth borders of varying shapes, sometimes irregular and ridge-like.
Other methods in which fibrocystic breasts can be diagnosed include:
- Mammogram– an X-ray exam on specific areas of the breasts that detects presence of lumps and dense breast tissues.
- Ultrasound– a method that uses sound waves to produce an image of the breasts and is useful in assessing thickened breast tissues like those tightly packed with lobules, ducts, and connective tissues.
- Breast biopsy– an invasive method that requires removal of a small portion of the lump for examination.
Fibrocystic breast are benign or non-cancerous. While most women don’t need to worry about their presence, there are treatments that can be directed towards individual symptoms to alleviate associated pain and discomfort, such as:
- Wearing a well-fitted bra for proper support of the breasts
- Anti-inflammatory and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, respectively.
- Food supplements like Vitamin E and Oil of Primrose which is beneficial in easing breast pain
- Low-fat dietary changes
- Fine needle aspiration which uses a hair-thin needle to drain fluid from the cysts
It is also recommended to have regular breast examinations and mammograms to monitor the condition of the lumps in the breast.
Fibrocystic Breasts and Breast Augmentation with implants
Undergoing breast augmentation while having existing fibrocystic breasts is a debateable concern among women mainly because of two reasons:
- The problems it may impose during breast examinations, and
- The possibility of increased risk for breast cancer.
Fibrocystic breasts are not a contraindication in women who want to undergo breast augmentation using implants. However, what makes having breast implants a concern for women with fibrocystic breasts lies in the detection of cancerous lumps during breast examinations.
Fibrocystic lumps have a close resemblance to breast cancer, making it difficult to differentiate them from cancerous lumps. Having breast implants may make diagnosis more difficult because they often obscure breast tissues during mammograms, ultrasounds, and similar tests.
That is why board-certified plastic surgeons suggest, if not recommend, that breast implants be placed under the muscles or what is known as sub-muscular placement. This type of implant placement would give a better and more visible view of breast tissues during mammography and ultrasound. Women are also advised to inform radiologists if they have breast implants before undergoing any breast examinations. This would prompt them to use the Eklund technique, a method that presses implants away from the breasts during mammograms or ultrasound.
Another concern about having breast implants is the possibility of increased risk for breast cancer. While fibrocystic breast condition, in itself, is not linked to breast cancer, breast implants are often associated with the development of breast cancer.
For years, it was believed that any foreign material embedded in the body, including silicone which is often contained in breast implants, causes the formation of sarcoma or malignant tumor. However, studies showed that there is no evidence of increased risks of breast cancer among patients who had a breast augmentation using implants.
With that said, women with fibrocystic breasts must consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon alongside other qualified experts in examining changes in the breast. This would provide a thorough diagnosis, while ruling out factors such as a genetics that could contribute to fibrocystic breasts.
Proper consultations also enable plastic surgeons to align the best course of action for the procedure with the given condition. Not only will this give the desired results, but it also ensures the patient’s safety after the surgery.
What is important is the open communication between the patient and plastic surgeon. This way, breast augmentation with implants will remain to be a safe and life-changing procedure to undergo, despite having fibrocystic breasts.