Common Causes of Breast Thickening
Changes to the breast are normal over the course of a woman’s life, and are usually no cause for concern. But sometimes, a thickening of breast tissue or skin can signal a more serious condition. If you’re fairly healthy and have no known history of breast disease, the chances are small–but a checkup can catch the problem if there is one and keep it from getting worse.
Breast thickening may be accompanied by a mild or sharp pain, or just general discomfort. Skin thickening may appear as a lump on the surface that’s easily felt, and may cause some itching. Tissue thickening can occur close to the surface or further in, the discomfort can increase when you move. It may feel like a lump that moves around, or just an area that feels denser than the rest of the breast.
Swollen lymph nodes can accompany breast thickening or be mistaken for it. Common reasons include reactions from breastfeeding, hormonal changes, or even just stress. If it persists, however, or of the pain gets more intense, you should see a doctor right away. Other possible causes include:
Fibrocystic changes: This refers to a change in your tissue due to hormonal shifts, which in turn can be caused by pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause, or a new medication. These are common in women aged 35 to 50 and may be accompanied by tenderness and small, harmless lumps. Some women experience this every menstrual cycle.
Fibroadenoma: It sounds serious, but a fibroadenoma is just a benign lump that’s normal in women between 20 and 30, and for still-unknown reasons occurs most frequently in African-American women. The lump can range from 1cm to 5cm across, and usually require no treatment unless they’re unusually big.
Lobular breast cancer: This is a type of breast cancer that’s hard to catch because breast thickening is often the first symptom that appears, rather than solid, detectable lumps. It occurs most frequently in post-menopausal women, so if you’re past this age you should be particularly wary of thickening and perform regular checks.
Inflammatory breast cancer: IBC is perhaps the most serious cause of breast thickening, but thankfully it’s also the rarest. It’s an aggressive type of cancer that can spread to nearby organs if left unchecked. If breast thickening is accompanied by inverted nipples, skin changes and tenderness, and occurs shortly after the last day of your period, get in touch with a doctor.