Thirty-three percent of all women between the ages of 30 and 50, and 50% of women of all ages, may at some point, be told by their physician that they have fibrocystic breast disease or other benign breast conditions. Other terms women may hear include benign breast disease, chronic mastitis (inflammation), and mammary dysplasia.
What is Fibrocystic Breast Disease?
Controversy exists about the name of this condition. Some argue that this is not a disease, but a common and harmless condition experienced by women as they encounter hormonal changes during their menstrual cycles.
Others argue that fibrocystic breast changes are a precursor for future breast cancer. Current research suggests that women with fibrocystic breast disease or other benign breast conditions are more likely to develop breast cancer later only if a breast biopsy shows “atypia” or abnormal breast cells. Most women with fibrocystic breasts will not show atypia when a breast biopsy is performed.
Fibrocystic breast disease is common and usually benign condition. Symptoms include swollen, tender breasts, and/or one or more lumps. Frequently, symptoms worsen just before a woman’s menstrual cycle, subsiding near the end. For the majority of women these symptoms are a temporary discomfort, however some women experience severe pain.
Fibrocystic breast disease may affect one or both breasts. Women often discover the existence of this condition when, during their monthly breast self-exam, they detect a lump. As frightening as discovering a lump in your breast is it’s important to remember that most breast lumps are not breast cancer. However, all breasts lumps must be investigated to rule out breast cancer and/or to begin immediate treatment if breast cancer is diagnosed.
What to Do When You Find a Lump in Your Breast
Call your physician to schedule an appointment and ask yourself the following questions:
* What is the date of your last period?
* When did you discover the lump?
* Is there a family history of breast problems?
* Have you had any previous breast problems?
* Have you had a previous breast biopsy or other breast surgery?
* How does the lump feel? Is it hard or soft? Does it feel grainy?
* How big is the lump and has is grown larger or smaller since you discovered it?
* Do you have any nipple discharge?
* Are you taking any medications?
Your physician will examine your breasts, manually, to determine which, if any, diagnostic tools to use for further evaluation of your breast lump. These diagnostic tools include mammography, ultrasound, needle aspiration, and biopsy.
FROM: A Woman’s Health Companion
By: Susan Lark, M.D.
Vitamins and Minerals for Breast Cysts
The following vitamins and minerals can be helpful in reducing and preventing breast cysts:
Vitamin A has been found to be useful in reducing both the pain symptoms and the size of the breast lesions in women with fibrocystic breast disease. At the University of Montreal Medical School, where high doses of vitamin A were administered (150,000 IU daily) to a small research group of volunteer women. The women studied had documented benign breast disease with moderate to severe pain symptoms. Their breast tenderness had not previously responded to mild analgesic medication (painkillers) or cessation of caffeine use. Eighty percent of the women tested had beneficial results with vitamin A and a dramatic reduction in the level of pain. The lessening of breast pain was still evident eight months after the study ended. Forty percent of the women had at least a 50 percent decrease in the size of their breast lumps. One drawback, though, is that vitamin A in high doses can cause toxic symptoms. Vitamin A derived from fish sources is an oil-based product, which can accumulate to high levels in the liver, where it is stored. Several women in this study had severe headaches from the high dosage of vitamin A taken, and several other women had more mild side effects.
To avoid the risk of side effects from fish oil-based vitamin A, it is safer for most women to use the provitamin A, beta carotene. Beta carotene is found abundantly in many yellow, orange, red, and dark green fruits and vegetables. It is converted to vitamin A by the liver and intestines as needed by the body. In fact, many women who eat a plant-based diet can easily ingest 50,000 to 100,000 IU of beta carotene on a daily basis. (One cup of carrot juice or one sweet potato contains 20,000 IU of beta carotene). Supplements of beta carotene are also readily available in health food stores and pharmacies.
In several controlled studies, vitamin E was found to be quite helpful in reducing the pain and tenderness, as well as the size, of breast lumps. In one study, where subjects were given 600 IU of vitamin E for two menstrual cycles, 80 percent showed a positive response. Another study of 29 women with fibrocystic breast lumps, which worsen premenstrually, showed again a good response to vitamin E treatments. At doses of 500 or 600 IU per day, 16 women had moderate to total symptom relief. The other 13 women had reduction of cyst size or complete disappearance of the cysts.
In animal studies, iodine deficient rats were found to develop breas hydanges similar to human fibrocystic disease. Human studies have also suggested that women who are iodine deficient may have a predisposition towards developing breast cysts. Iodine is needed by the body for the production of the thyroid hormone. Lack of adequate thyroid hormone also affects the menstrual cycle.
Sea vegetables such as nori, kelp, and dulse, found in the produce section of health food stores, are good sources of iodine. Dulse is also available in liquid drops, while kelp is available in tablets. Kelp also comes in powdered form and can be used in cooking as a good salt substitute.
Essential Fatty Acids
Several studies have looked at the beneficial effects of evening primrose oil on fibrocystic breast disease. Evening primrose oil is an excellent source of the essential fatty acid, linoleic acid, and its chemical derivative, gamma linolenic acid (GLA). In one study of 291 women with severe breast pain, 45 percent of the women had symptom relief with the use of evening primrose oil. Another study of 41 women showed equally good symptom relief. The beneficial results were maintained in women who continued to use evening primrose oil after the study ended. Typical dosages used were 1500 mg twice a day. (This would amount to taking 6 of the 500 mg capsules commonly available.) In my experience, some women need to go as high as 9 to 12 capsules per day for relief of severe symptoms. Borage oil and black currant oil are more concentrated sources of GLA, so the number of capsules necessary is reduced. For example, 3 or 4 capsules per day of borage oil may be sufficient.
Fibrocystic breast disease (FBD) is most often a component of premenstrual syndrome.
Elevated estrogen-to-progesterone ratio and/or increased prolactin levels are common.
Eliminating caffeine and similar compounds has produced improvements in as high as ninety-seven percent of women in clinical trials.
Hypothyroidism and/or iodine deficiency may be a causative factor in fibrocystic breast disease.
Women who have fewer than three bowel movements per week have a 4.5 times greater rate of fibrocystic breast disease than women who have at least one bowel movement a day.
a. Genetic pre-disposition
b. Hormonal imbalance
d. Diets high in refined carbohydrates and processed foods
e. Iodine deficiency.
Unless a woman has pure FBD (no other PMS symptom), the therapeutic approach outlined in PREMENSTRUAL SYNDROME will more definitively meet her individual needs, as FBD is often a component of the more encompassing PMS. The therapy recommended here includes key factors discussed in that section.
a. Eliminate all refined carbohydrate, processed foods, alcohol and caffeine-containing foods such as coffee, tea, cola and chocolate
b. Eliminate hydrogenated fats and oils. Eat only extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and fish oils as your only source of dietary oils.
c. Sip 2 to 3 oz of distilled or filtered water every 30 minutes daily (no well water or water containing fluoride or chlorine); more if you are sweating.
d. Increase raw and fresh foods and quality proteins.
The diet should be primarily vegetarian, with large amounts of dietary fiber. All methylxanthines (coffee and caffeine-containing teas) should be eliminated until symptoms are alleviated; they then can be reintroduced in small amounts. External (exogenous) estrogens should be avoided (oral contraceptives, animal products with high estrogen content such as meats raised with the help of growth stimulators, etc.). The diet should emphasize whole, unprocessed foods: whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Drink mouthful of good quality water every thirty minutes while awake the rest of your life.
1. BIO-MULTI PLUS IRON FREE — 2 tablets, 2 to 3 times daily after meals for Multi-Vitamin & Mineral.
2. BIO-C PLUS 1000 – 1 tablet, 3 times daily after meals.
3. M S M POWDER – 1/2 teaspoonful 2 to 4 times daily depending on the severity of symptoms. NOTE: Always take MSM with your Vitamin C.
Specific Nutrients: When symptoms or condition begins to subside, gradually, as needed, wean yourself from the Specific Nutrients & stay on the Primary Nutrients. If any symptoms re-occur resume taking Specific Nutrients.
7. B6 PHOSPHATE – 2 tablets, 3 times daily after each meal.
9. ZN-ZYME FORTE ? 1 tablet, once daily after meals for Zinc.
10. MG-ZYME — 2 capsules, 2 times daily after meals for Magnesium.
You may also dip a cotton swab into the LIQUID IODINE and apply externally on the skin over the site of the cyst once daily at bedtime. IMPORTANT!! Jonathan Wright, M.D. also suggests using an Iodine swab inside the vagina at bedtime with 2 Mg-Zyme tablets. This gets the Iodine as close to the ovaries as possible and the Magnesium helps the Iodine to work.
This protocol is very important. It should be continued until pain or tenderness and swelling have been reduced significantly. Afterwards, use this protocol once to twice weekly until the problem is reversed enough so that you can switch to the oral treatment program as noted above.