Fibrocystic breasts

Fibrocystic breasts are a very common non-cancerous (benign) condition. It is sometimes called fibrocystic breast disease. But it isn’t really a disease, and women with this condition don’t have abnormal breasts.

Many women will have fibrocystic breasts during their lifetime, but this condition is most common in women between 30 and 50 years of age. Women with fibrocystic breasts and a family history of breast cancer have a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer. Having fibrocystic breasts doesn’t increase the risk for breast cancer in other women.


Symptoms of fibrocystic breasts are usually felt in both breasts. The most common symptoms are:

  • lumps or lumpy areas in the breast
  • breast pain or tenderness
  • breast swelling or heaviness

The symptoms can change with your menstrual cycle and often become worse just before or during your period. Some women may have pain all the time, not just around their periods.


Pain or discomfort may be relieved by wearing a properly fitted and supportive bra. Your healthcare team may also suggest taking over-the-counter pain medicines or birth control pills (oral contraceptives) to help relieve the symptoms of fibrocystic breasts.

Doctors may use a fine needle aspiration (FNA) to drain fluid from a cyst. You may be offered surgery to remove a large, painful cyst.

Some people find that doing the following can help relieve symptoms of fibrocystic breasts, but they are not standard treatments for this condition:

  • avoid caffeine and other stimulants (such as coffee, tea, chocolate, soft drinks)
  • lower the amount of salt and saturated fats in your diet
  • add 25 grams of ground flaxseed to your diet each day
  • take evening primrose oil or vitamin E supplements

Tell your healthcare team about any supplements that you are taking for fibrocystic breasts.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society . Non-Cancerous Breast Conditions . 2015 :
  • Collins LC & Schnitt SJ . Pathology of benign breast disorders. Harris JR, Lippman ME, Morrow M, Osborne CK (eds.). Diseases of the Breast. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health; 2014.
  • Daller JA. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: Fibrocystic breast disease. 2014:
  • Lakoma A, Kim ES . Minimally invasive surgical management of benign breast lesions . Gland Surgery . 2014 .

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

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