My breasts are lumpy! What Should I do?

I’ve noticed that every once in a while my breasts become super sensitive and lumpy. Should I be worried? 

Let me preface this post by saying that any changes in your breast tissue should be evaluated by your women’s health provider right away. 

What you’re describing sounds like fibrocystic breast disease, a benign condition that is very common, especially among younger women. The changes are thought to be related to fluctuations in hormones throughout the menstrual cycle. Although the pain can occur at anytime throughout the cycle, it occurs most commonly around the time of your period.

Symptoms include dense, lumpy breasts associated with a heavy feeling, tenderness, and even brown or green nipple discharge.  Any nipple discharge – especially if it has blood in it – needs to be evaluated as soon as possible. 

Fibrocystic breast changes have not been found to increase your risk for breast cancer, but they can make it more difficult for you or your healthcare provider to perform breast exams, and can interfere with tests like ultrasounds or mammograms. That’s why it’s even more important for you to perform monthly breast self exams so you’ll know how your breasts normally feel and will be better able to detect changes.  You should always perform your breast self exam at the end of your period – this is when your breasts are typically the least sensitive. 

While none of the following treatments have been scientifically proven to be effective in treating fibrocystic breast disease, many women find relief by:

  • Drinking less caffeine
  • Using a non-steroidal inflammatory drug like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) for pain
  • Following a low salt diet to prevent water retention

If you are having any breast changes (do you notice a pattern here?), see your women’s health care professional as soon as possible or make an appointment with our Women’s Services department. 

Cheryl Czapla, Med IV
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University

Ryo Choi-Pearson, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University