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Breast Health - Part 1


At Heart of Illinois OBGYN, serving Normal and Bloomington, IL., breast health is important to our providers.

What Tissues Make Up the Breast?

When doing a self-breast exam, it is beneficial to be aware of what tissue makes up the breast and what to look for when conducting an exam.   Breasts contain the following tissues:

  • Glandular tissue – milk ducts and glands.

  • Fibrous tissue – supportive tissue.

  • Fatty tissue – the space between the other types of tissue. This gives the breast its size.

What Causes Breast Lumps?

It is normal for the breasts to feel slightly uneven and lumpy. Breasts change throughout a woman’s lifetime due to various factors including age, hormones, menstrual cycle, pregnancy, breastfeeding, birth control and menopause. Self-breast is very important so a woman can be aware of any new breast changes. If you find a new lump or a change in your breasts that does not go away after your menstrual period, it is important to have it evaluated. Keep in mind that 8 out of 10 breast lumps are not cancer, but should still be evaluated by your provider. Evaluation of the lump may also include mammogram, ultrasound imaging, or biopsy.

How Do Hormones Impact Breast Tissue?

Hormonal changes can cause glandular breast tissue to swell. This causes the fibrous tissue to stretch, causing breasts to feel sore. These hormones may also cause fluid-filled lumps or cysts to form. They may be small or large in size. Cysts are benign and are not a form of cancer. These cysts may become larger and breasts may be more tender just before your menstrual period. Cysts may vary in size from one month to the next. Cysts usually require no treatment. If a cyst is becoming large and uncomfortable it may be drained.

Is Breast Tenderness Common?

Breast tenderness is very common and is often due to fibrocystic breast changes. Breast tenderness often increases 1-2 weeks prior to a menstrual period.  Women that have breast tenderness related to fibrocystic breasts often find pain decreases if they eliminate caffeine. Decreasing salt intake 1-2 weeks before menses can also be helpful. Exercise for 30-60 minutes daily. Wear a supportive bra.  Some women find taking Vitamin E 400 IU daily, or Vitamin B6 100mg daily helps to decrease breast pain. Evening primrose oil 1000-3000mg per day may also help to decrease breast tenderness. Anti-inflammatory medication like Ibuprofen can also provide relief. Talk with Dr. Rachel Dalton or Dr. Jared Zotz, or one of our many other providers at Heart of Illinois Obstetrics and Gynecology about these supplements to see which may be most appropriate for you.

What is Dense Breast Tissue?

Dense breast tissue is made up of less fat and more fibrous and glandular tissue.  Breast density is one of the most significant predictors of the failure of mammography to detect cancer. Dense tissue appears white and cancerous tumors appear white making it nearly impossible to "see" the tumor. A significant number of women have dense breast tissue. Women with dense tissue are more likely to develop breast cancer. As a woman ages her breasts usually become fattier and less dense.

Breast density is classified using 4 different categories.

  • Entirely fatty tissue

  • Scattered fibroglandular densities

  • Heterogeneously dense

  • Extremely dense

Heterogeneously dense and extremely dense breast tissue should be offered supplemental breast imaging including screening ultrasonography or breast MRI.

To learn more about dense breast tissue and supplemental breast imaging visit

If you have any questions about your breast health, please contact Heart of Illinois OBGYN in Bloomington, IL. Heart of Illinois OBGYN also serves Normal, IL and the surrounding areas.