Boobfilter: Help me get rid of my not-so-lovely lady lumps!
September 13, 2012 6:26 AM   Subscribe

I know YANMD, and I'm not looking for a medical opinion. What I am looking for is your experience using holistic/folk/natural remedies to reduce or reverse fibrocystic breast disease and/or fibroadenomas.

Has anything actually WORKED for you?

Background: I am a white female, age 47, still menstruating. I have always had lumpy breasts, to the point where I felt doing breast self-exams were pointless because there are so many lumps I wouldn't know a cancer lump from any others. Also poking at my breasts is generally somewhat painful. I was relieved to find out in my early 20s that it's a condition called fibrocystic breasts and is fairly common among Western women.

I started getting mammograms at age 40. From the start, there was a general reaction of "whoa, lots of cysts" from medical personnel. About two years ago, during a manual breast exam, my doctor found a peanut M&M size lump in my left breast, 1 o'clock position. She also noticed a thickening in my right breast, 11 o'clock position. She told me she thought they were fibroadenomas, and I had core something-or-others that confirmed that. FYI, after that I have been diligent with the breast self-exams, since having a doctor find a lump that size without my knowledge was pretty embarassing. Also, I found out there is usually a noticeable difference in the way benign lumps feel/move versus cancer lumps that finally made breast self-exams seem worthwhile, even though they are still painful.

Yesterday I went for my yearly mammogram. I don't know if it's because I'm currently having my period or what, but my breast tissue caused quite a stir. Reactions ranged from "what a mess" by the mammogram tech, to "you must hate having mammograms" by the ultrasound tech, to "your breasts are very busy" by the radiologist.

I was quite offended by these comments, but I'm over that now and I've decided to do whatever I can to reduce or reverse these conditions in my breasts to sort of "show up" the medical folks next year.

Googling last night produced mainly holistic approaches. Cutting out caffeine and chocolate will be tough, but I can do it. Other recommendations were iodine supplements, as well as other vitamins/minerals/herbs, but these all seemed to be from sites selling those supplements, so seemed questionable to me.

In college I remember a professor talking about her experience in Asia. Apparently fibrocystic breasts are such a rarity in Asian women that she had a round of doctors coming to feel her breasts so they would know what they felt like. I assume this was in a medical setting, lol. She seemed to think it was due to differences between the Asian and Western diets.

Sorry for the long post. Bottom line up front: have any lady me-fites had a successful outcome reducing or reversing breast cysts or fibroadenomas without surgery?

Thanks in advance . . .
posted by auntie maim to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Ah, yes, for some reason doctors love pointing out lumpy breasts! They seem to forget the women attached when faced with them.

I had the best results with cutting out caffeine. I've fallen off the wagon now but in the years I was coffee free it did seem to keep them slightly less cystic. My doctor seemed doubtful about any other natural remedies and just encouraged more touchy feeley pokey self-exams.
posted by kanata at 7:04 AM on September 13, 2012

My girls are not as interesting as your girls, but I know that there is something in my daily multi-vitamin that is lacking in my normal diet such that if I am good with taking my multi-vitamin during my ovulation phase, I experience far less pain in the week immediately prior to my period than on the months when I slack off.

Part of me is curious to try going off of the multi-vitamin and replacing with iron or Vit E or Vit B or Vit A supplements to see what the trigger really is, but most of me knows that that's too much work.

tl;dr - try a multi-vitamin?
posted by sparklemotion at 7:34 AM on September 13, 2012

Have you tried looking for scholarly research articles? As a non-scientist I find that I can usually understand their abstracts and conclusions. Try PubMed and/or Google Scholar. In both of them it's probably a good idea to limit searches to articles published in the last five years.
posted by mareli at 7:41 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am sorry for what you heard from the ultrasound tech. It is considered quite unprofessional to make comments like that - no one likes to hear that their condition is particularly curious and no one likes to feel like a spectacle. For the radiologist and the mammogram tech, I'd say they were just making small talk and it really wasn't meant personally, just as a sort of commiseration, although it may have been poorly delivered.

If people say things to you like "boy, your problems/breasts/mammograms are bad" - you can always feel free to ask to speak to their supervisor or to a patient advocate to alert them that this person might need some sensitivity/communication retraining, or if you're the direct type, just say "hey, that isn't nice - there's nothing I can do about this, it's just the way my body is."

In terms of cultural differences, I think it would be important to consider that Asian women are genetically different from Caucasian women and that could be a confounding factor in any consideration of lifestyle differences that might be related to this disease. In other words, even though their diet is different, it may have nothing to do with the diet. With the breast cancer issue, there were studies looking at Asian women who moved to or grew up with a Western diet and how those women were different from Asian women who stayed in Asia - that kind of evidence would give you more information. As far as I know the only thing that's been implicated is caffeine consumption, although the evidence isn't strong, it wouldn't hurt to avoid caffeine.

I'm a doctor (but I don't treat fibrocystic breast disease) - but as a patient too, I can tell you that when I was diagnosed with PCOS, I had a lot of emotional baggage with that too. I wanted to do things to see if I could cure my PCOS and show my doctor that somehow I could beat it. But in fact, that is just a part of me and who I am, and devoting emotional energy to wishing it weren't that way doesn't help - I'll never be able to change the fact that I have PCOS - I just have to accept it and realize that it doesn't reflect personally on my character in any way, it's not something that is my "fault". That viewpoint may not be helpful to you but I hope it might be.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:49 AM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

I used to have VERY interesting breasts. When I stopped wearing underwire bras (Decent Exposures FTW!) they got boring within a course of months.
posted by KathrynT at 8:07 AM on September 13, 2012

Breast massage and lymphatic drainage from an RMT who knows what they are doing will be unlikely to destroy the cysts, but it will decrease the pain and swelling as well as get rid of some of the adhesions that circle the breast along the underwire line. It might be possible to release/ realign the fibrosed tissue using vigorous massage, but it would hurt like hell. And we're trained not to use vigorous techniques on the breast for that reason, so you might have to do it yourself.

If you're at risk for malignancy, get a doctor's permission first; the effect of massage on the spread of malignancy is unknown, but theoretically can be problematic. And bear in mind that most RMTs don't do breast massage often, so it might take a while to click with someone. And check out the role and training of massage therapists in your area; they might not be licensed to do breast massage or not go to school for long enough to be someone you want working on you.

You also might want to apply cool hydrotherapy (think a cool washcloth) to the painful tissue; again, it will help with the pain and inflammation. If you have fibrotic tisse, reducing inflammation should be a big priority for you because inflammation causes fibroses.

Seconding getting rid of underwires; those things do horrific stuff to your body.

And drink lots of water!
posted by windykites at 9:22 AM on September 13, 2012

Oh, as for differences between Asian and Western rates of various diseases, and the relationship with food... I just watched a documentary about this last night! It's called "Forks Over Knives". I haven't yet had a chance to research/ verify the info presented, and the bias of the film was pretty clear (the narrator says 'whole foods plant based diet" enough times to make it a drinking game), but it was recommended by people I trust, so you might want to check it out.
posted by windykites at 9:29 AM on September 13, 2012

my doctor recommended evening primrose oil. i took it at the same time i cut out caffeine, so unfortunately i can't tell you which helped more.
posted by marshmallow peep at 10:23 AM on September 13, 2012

Both my doctor and my acupuncturist (so, Eastern & Western medicine) have told me the only thing to do reduce cysts is to cut way down/eliminate caffeine. You can also have the cysts removed surgically, of course, but it sounds like that may not be something you want to do.
posted by min at 6:10 PM on September 13, 2012

Caffeine cutback was enough to clear the whole thing up for me. It was amazing how quickly it worked; I would say by the second month, my breasts were clear and have been for five years now (I'm 48 and on HBC and have an autoimmune inflammatory issue, and even so the caffeine cutback was effective on its own).
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:24 PM on September 13, 2012

Thanks everybody for your thoughtful responses!
posted by auntie maim at 4:50 AM on September 14, 2012

I sent a message to your MeFi mail.
posted by moira at 9:04 AM on September 14, 2012

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