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Breast Conditions

Potential breast conditions in young women

A young woman may have a number of changes in her breasts during the teen and early adult years. Some of these changes are related to the menstrual cycle, birth control pills, or other hormonal forms of contraception. Others may occur any time without clear cause. While most breast conditions are noncancerous, it is important for young women to be aware of proper breast health, so that they may find any problems. Some of the breast conditions young women may have include cyclical breast pain, cysts, and fibroadenomas.

Cyclical breast pain

The most common type of breast pain is linked to the menstrual cycle and is nearly always hormonal. Some women start to have pain around the time of ovulation which continues until the start of their period. The pain can either be barely noticeable or so severe that the woman can't wear tight-fitting clothing or tolerate close contact of any kind. The pain may be felt in only one breast or may be felt as a spreading sensation in the under-arm region.

It may be helpful for women to chart their breast pain to determine if the pain is cyclical or not. After a few months, the relationship between the menstrual cycle and breast pain will emerge.

Hormones may not provide the total answer to cyclical breast pain, since pain is often more severe in one breast than in the other (hormones would tend to affect both breasts equally). Many healthcare providers believe that a combination of hormonal activity and something in the breast that responds to this activity may hold the answer. However, more research is needed.


A cyst is a fluid-filled sac that develops in the breast tissue. Cysts often enlarge and become tender and painful just before a woman'speriod. It may seem to appear overnight. They are the most common reason for breast lumps in teens. Cysts are rarely cancerous and may be caused by a blocked breast gland.

Cysts can feel either soft or hard. When close to the surface of the breast, cysts can feel like a large blister, smooth on the outside, but fluid-filled on the inside. However, when a cyst is deeply imbedded in breast tissue, it will feel like a hard lump because it is covered with tissue.


Fibroadenomas are solid, smooth, firm, noncancerous lumps that are most commonly found in women in their late teens and early twenties. They can occur in women of any age and are the second most common noncancerous lumps in women.

Fibroadenomas occur twice as often in African-American women as in other women. The painless lump feels rubbery, moves around freely, and very often is found by the woman herself. They vary in size and can grow anywhere in the breast tissue.

In some cases, with very young women, the fibroadenoma is not removed. However, since sometimes these tumors enlarge with pregnancy and breastfeeding, healthcare providers may recommend surgically removing the fibroadenoma.

Other conditions

Generalized breast lumpiness is known under many different names, such as "fibrocystic disease" and "fibroid breasts." Many of these are misnomers since healthcare providers and researchers now believe that these are just part of the breast changes which many women undergo throughout the various stages of their lives. Many healthcare providers feel that this term has become a catch-all phrase for general breast lumpiness.

Fibrocystic lumpiness is also described as "ropy" or "granular" and seems to become more obvious as a woman approaches middle age and the milk producing glandular tissue gives way to softer, fatty tissue. However, women with lumpy breasts may have many other noncancerous breast conditions.

Lumpiness in the breasts may make actual lumps harder to distinguish. It's important that women with lumpy breasts do regular breast self-exams and have regular physical exams. Knowing the normal shape and feel of your own breasts is important, especially when doing exams to find any unusual breast changes.

Breast Conditions - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: Foster, Sara, RN, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Horowitz, Diane MD
Last Review Date: 2015-08-10T00:00:00
Last Modified Date: 2015-10-14T00:00:00
Posting Date: 2008-11-30T00:00:00
Published Date: 2015-10-14T00:00:00
Last Review Date: 2007-03-30T00:00:00
© 2015 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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