An estimated 30% of women in the U.S. have fibrocystic (also called non-proliferative) disease of the breast. When a duct in the breast enlarges and fills with fluid, the collagen-rich tissue around the duct thickens, resulting in fibrocystic disease.
Typically, fibrocystic changes of the breast are soft and mobile, benign (i.e., non-cancerous) lumps, which can make the breasts feel lumpy or bumpy in many pre-menopausal women and many post-menopausal women taking hormone replacement therapy. Also, some pre-menopausal women with fibrocystic disease of the breast experience swelling, tenderness, or pain in their breasts during certain parts of their menstrual cycle. Some women with fibrocystic disease of the breast experience discharge from the nipples.
The following changes in diet, nutritional supplementation, hormonal balancing, and medications have helped some women to prevent, experience a reduction in, and reduce the symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease:[1, 3 - 5]
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet. Consuming foods that are less acidic can help to make the bloodstream less acidic and more neutral (i.e., in pH), thereby preventing inflammation or reducing the amount of inflammation occurring in the body. Eliminating or reducing alcohol intake and reducing consumption of animal products also can prevent or reduce inflammation. In addition, completely avoiding caffeine can lower inflammation and reduce tenderness and pain associated with fibrocystic breast disease. Furthermore, regularly eating lots of salmon, mackerel, herring, and other cold-water fish that are abundant in omega 3 fish oils; regularly eating flaxseed; and regularly eating foods containing flavonoids can help reduce inflammation.
Eliminating or reducing consumption of chocolate, which otherwise can aggravate the pain of fibrocystic breast disease
Reducing intake of salt in the diet
Reducing intake of dietary fats
Drinking lots of water
Regularly taking supplements containing omega 3 fish oils, which can help reduce inflammation
Regularly taking supplements containing flavonoids, which can help reduce inflammation
Taking vitamin E supplements daily
Taking thiamine supplements daily
Increasing dietary iodine intake by eating more seafood and sea vegetables
Taking daily oral iodine supplements (e.g., molecular iodine) or daily oral iodide supplements (e.g., potassium iodide)
Taking supplements containing evening primrose, black currant, or borage oil
Taking a homeopathic remedy (a dilute solution of a substance from a botanical, mineral, or animal source), such as calcarea carbonica, conium maculatum, or lachesis mutus. See a homeopath, a healthcare professional with experience in homeopathy, for guidance on selection of the proper remedy and the appropriate dose for you.
Although taking aspirin or ibuprofen can reduce inflammation and relieve the pain of fibrocystic breast disease, first trying nutritional methods to reduce inflammation in the body is recommended.
For pre-menopausal women experiencing irregular periods, peri-menopausal women, and post-menopausal women, exploring hormonal balancing with guidance from an integrative medical physician or gynecologist experienced in the use of bio-identical hormones and alternative therapies can help reduce the symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease. Natural progesterone cream may be helpful for some women.
A small clinical trial showed that the majority of the women with fibrocystic disease who received daily oral doses of molecular (i.e., diatomic elemental) iodine for 9 months experienced both complete relief from fibrocystic breast pain and less fibrocystic disease of the breast.[4, 5]
Oral iodine used in various clinical studies of prevention and treatment of fibrocystic breast disease include:[4, 5]
Other oral pharmaceutical preparations of iodine or iodides
Molecular iodine may be obtained from a compounding pharmacy. Mere use of iodized salt in the diet however, does not constitute appropriate prevention or treatment of fibrocystic breast disease.
Scientists believe that the protective and therapeutic effects of oral iodine and iodides on fibrocystic disease of the breast involve the following mechanisms:[1, 4, 5]
Preventing or treating iodine deficiency
Normalizing function of the thyroid
Making breast cells less sensitive to the effects of estrogen
Larger clinical studies, however, show that treatment with molecular iodine may be associated with certain (and typically minor) side effects, including:[4, 5]
Temporary increase in pain of the breast
Thinning of the hair
Furthermore, the following possible side effects have been reported in people taking pharmaceutical doses of iodine or iodides:
Excess production of saliva
Metallic taste in the mouth
For guidance on prevention or treatment of fibrocystic disease of the breast, consult your integrative medical physician and gynecologist. Before taking any nutritional supplements or pharmaceuticals for prevention or treatment of fibrocystic breast disease, discuss your medical history with your integrative medical physician, your gynecologist, and your other healthcare professionals.
It is important to note that fibrocystic changes in women who lack strong family histories of breast cancer generally do not increase the womens chances of getting breast cancer. A few women with fibrocystic breast disease, however, have a relatively rare condition in which these patients are at higher risk for developing breast cancer. Clinical, radiology (e.g., ultrasound and mammography), and laboratory evaluation (i.e., fine needle aspiration biopsy) by a physician can distinguish between the usual type of fibrocystic changes of the breast and rare conditions associated with fibrocystic breast disease.
If you are a pre-menopausal woman, be aware that the feeling of your breasts change during your menstrual cycle. You need to become familiar with how your breasts feel during the various parts of your cycle, so that you recognize what is normal for you.
If you are a post-menopausal woman, you need to become familiar with how your breasts usually feel, so that you recognize what is normal for you.
Regardless of your age as an adult woman, when you become familiar with the normal feeling of your breasts, you will be able to recognize changes when and if they occur. If you are concerned whether any symptoms you are experiencing are due to fibrocystic disease of the breast or other causes, consult your physician for a clinical breast examination and a diagnosis.
1. D. Williams. Other thyroid trouble. Alternatives. 10(24):190.
2. G. Emery. Correction: Benign breast disease, history studied. Reuters. 07/20/05. Accessed at www.reuters.com.
3. C. Scott-Connor. Fibrocystic breast disease: Frequently asked questions. Virtual Hospital. Accessed at www.vh.org/adult/patient/surgery/faq/fibrocysticbreastdisease.html.
4. W.R. Ghent. Iodine replacement in fibrocystic disease of the breast. Canadian Journal of Surgery. 1993; 36:453-460.
5. A.R. Gaby. Iodine treatment of fibrocystic breast disease. Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients. 11/04.