Mastopathy: a harmless change in the breast

Mastopathy: a harmless change in the breast

Pain and swelling of the breast, severe sensitivity to pressure and small nodules – these are the typical signs of mastopathy, the most common benign change in breast tissue. About every second woman between the ages of 35 and 55 is affected by more or less severe, benign changes in the breast tissue. The changes in themselves have no disease value – not every woman with mastopathy has symptoms.

Mastopathy: hormones out of balance

The exact cause of mastopathy is not known. However, it is known that estrogen plays a vital role in this. It is presumably caused by a disturbed relationship between the body’s sex hormones progestin and estrogen, as a result of which estrogen ultimately outweighs the progestin. This occurs when too much estrogen is produced or when progestin production decreases.

This hormone imbalance results in a remodelling of the breast tissue in the long term. For example, the connective tissue is remodelled, resulting in hardening and the development of scars and nodules. In addition, large or small cysts can form, or water can accumulate in the tissues. If there is pain, it is often cycle-related, with the worst pain just before the period begins. The pain usually subsides when the bleeding begins.

 

Diagnosis of mastopathy

Many women notice themselves when their breasts change. It feels harder on palpation, nodules can be felt, or there is pain when touched. There is also rare leakage of fluid from the nipple. Almost always, the changes occur on both sides. The doctor will be able to make an initial suspected diagnosis based on the palpation findings, the age of the woman and the mostly cycle-dependent pain.

But every change can, in principle, also be based on a malicious cause that even the doctor cannot detect by touch. Further investigations are necessary to rule this out. This includes a mammography, usually an ultrasound examination of the breast and if there is still uncertainty, also a targeted tissue removal.

Classification and its meaning

Depending on the extent of the changes in the breast tissue, mastopathy is divided into grade I to grade III. With the increasing remodelling of the tissue, the risk increases that what was initially benign changes will become malignant. This classification serves primarily to be able to make a specific statement about this risk.

 

Spread of mastopathy

Only about one in ten women has grade III mastopathy. Although it is relatively rare, it is problematic in that women with this finding have a significantly increased risk of breast cancer. Another difficulty and fear of those affected is that a malignant change cannot be recognized in time due to the severely altered breast tissue. Therefore, the diagnosis of grade III mastopathy can mean a tremendous emotional burden for a woman.

However, women with a simple mastopathy do not have to worry about breast cancer; here, the focus is more on dealing with their body image and the need for those affected to regard these changes as “normal”.

therapy and treatment

Some women live entirely unaffected by these benign changes, while others are severely affected in their quality of life, at least temporarily. Then, the mastopathy cannot be treated, but the resulting symptoms can. If the examinations have shown that there is no malignant event behind the breast changes, there is the possibility of treating the mastopathy with medication. This is where hormones come into play.

Herbal remedies (exceedingly chaste tree or cream with mercury), homoeopathic preparations (e.g. Phytolacca) or Schuessler salts are also used successfully. Another small, albeit small, consolation: after menopause, the symptoms as a result of the hormonal changes almost always stop.

precaution and prevention

Women affected by mastopathy should regularly examine their breasts to become familiar with the changes that are occurring. The best time is once a month after the onset of menstruation. Furthermore, it makes sense to have regular check-ups with the gynaecologist, including a breast scan. Women who are worried about severe mastopathy can also find competent contact persons in so-called breast centres.

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