Any changes in your breasts should be cause for concern. This is particularly true when you notice a thickening of your breast tissue. While some causes of breast thickening are benign and not a cause for concern, these changes are also linked to some types of cancer. If you notice thickening of your breast tissue, seek medical advice.
Shifts in hormonal levels in some women lead to symptoms known as fibrocystic changes. Fibrocystic changes can cause small benign lumps, tenderness and breast thickening. This may affect either one or both breasts. This is the most common cause of breast thickening in women between the ages of 35 and 50, according to WebMD. Symptoms are generally most acute in the days leading up to a woman's menstrual cycle but tend to decrease after it is over. This condition generally requires no treatment, but should be monitored.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is certainly the most serious condition associated with breast thickening. If you notice sensations of heaviness or swelling in your breast or under your armpit that persists after the conclusion of your period, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Inflammatory breast disease is a very rare, aggressive form of cancer that can spread quickly in the body. Other symptoms of IBC include breast tenderness, nipple inversion and changes in skin appearance, according to the National Cancer Institute.
A fibroadenoma is a common type of benign breast tumor that occurs most frequently in African-American women and in women between the ages of 20 and 30. They have a solid, rubbery feel and move freely. Fibroadenomas can be as small as 1 cm to as large as 5 cm. It is easy to mistake fibroadenoma as a thickening of the breast if you do not perform regular self-exams. To distinguish between the two, perform a self-exam and use your fingers to probe for the borders of lumps. Fibroadenomas are generally painless and require no treatment.
Lobular Breast Cancer
Lobular breast cancer is difficult to catch because it causes very few symptoms. Lumps or tumors are almost never present in patients with this illness. In fact, breast thickening is the primary symptom of this type of breast cancer, according to MayoClinic.com. Women who are postmenopausal are the most likely to get lobular breast cancer and should therefore be particularly aware of breast thickening.