Fibrocystic breast disease is a benign condition that can nonetheless be quite painful for up to half of the women who have it. Because its primary feature is lumpy breast tissue, it's also responsible for considerable worry from women who fear they have breast cancer.

Salt Lake Research is part of a national clinical trial to see if a topical cream can reduce the size of the lumps and relieve the pain a woman can experience with the condition.

As many as 50 percent to 60 percent of women have FBD.

"It's hormonally related and usually declines after menopause," said Dr. Alan Rappleye, who has a private practice and conducts studies for Salt Lake Research. "The pain can be intolerable for some women. I tell them not to do their monthly self-exam until after their period, because they'll find lumps that will be gone then."

The lumps are caused by fluid-filled cysts. The condition causes some women to worry that they have breast cancer; others may ignore potential cancerous lumps, assuming it's what they've become used to with their FBD.

There are a number of things that doctors can do to try to alleviate FBD, said Rappleye. Between 20 percent and 25 percent of women with FBD respond well to reducing the fat and caffeine they consume. But that doesn't work for everyone. Hormone therapy, including low-dose contraceptives, may provide relief.

The study medication is based on nonestrogen hormones. To participate, a woman must be 18 or older and have normal ovulatory function. She also must have painful FBD around the time of her period.

Some participants will be randomized to receive the cream, which is being studied at different concentrations; others will receive a placebo. A cream is applied daily for three months, and changes in lumpiness and pain level are noted. Each woman has a baseline exam, as well as a monthly clinical exam and a follow-up examination one month after she stops using the cream.

"As far as a study goes, this is simple to do," Rappleye said. "The side effects are minimal, and we've seen no problems. It's been going on for the last several months across the country."

Information on fibrocystic breast disease and links to the study are online at Utah women who would like to enroll can call 801-288-9778.

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