Breast Pain

General Information | Risk Factors and Symptoms | Diagnosis and Treatment


General information General Information

About Breast Pain

Breast pain is most common in women who have not yet gone through menopause.

Some women may experience breast pain (mastalgia) without an apparent cause. Breast pain is seldom associated with breast cancer. However, if you have unexplained breast pain that doesn’t go away after your next menstrual cycle, you should see your doctor.

Breast pain may occur in one or both breasts. It may vary in intensity. Nearly 70% of women experience breast pain during their lives. About 15% of women have breast pain severe enough to need treatment.

Following are possible causes of breast pain:

  • Fibrocystic breasts
  • Hormone replacement therapy after menopause
  • Other hormonal medications, such as infertility treatments and oral contraceptives
  • Hormone fluctuations from your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or puberty
  • Stress
  • Diet, particularly caffeine, mushrooms, nuts, cheese, red wine, bananas, chocolate, and fat in excess
  • Large breasts
  • Mastitis, or inflammation of the mammary gland (also causes redness, swelling and tenderness of the breast) – this condition may require medical attention

Risk factors and symptoms Risk Factors and Symptoms

Risk Factors for Breast Pain

Women of all ages may experience breast pain. However, it is most common in women who have not yet gone through menopause.

Cysts may be caused by fibrocystic breasts. Refer to this section for more information.

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Symptoms of Breast Pain

Breast pain itself is the symptom. However, breast pain is usually classified as one of two types: cyclic or non-cyclic. These types have differing symptoms.

Cyclic Breast Pain

  • Affected by your menstrual cycle – usually gets worse during the two weeks prior to menstruation and gets better afterward
  • Usually dull, heavy or aching
  • Often accompanied by swelling or lumpiness
  • Usually affects both breasts
  • Pain may extend into the axilla (underarm)
  • Usually stops at menopause

Non-Cyclic Breast Pain

  • Does not follow a pattern
  • Usually tight, burning or sharp
  • Constant or intermittent
  • Usually felt in a specific area on one breast, but may affect the whole breast

Diagnosis and treatment Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing the Cause of Breast Pain

A mammogram, and possibly a breast ultrasound, may be requested by your health care provider to assist in the evaluation of breast pain..

Treating this Condition

There is no specific medical treatment for alleviating breast pain. Following are some measures you can take to reduce pain:

  • Restrict fat intake to 15% or less of daily calories
  • Eliminate caffeine from the diet
  • Wear a well-fitting bra with good support
  • Wear a well-fitting sports bra during exercise
  • Take over the counter pain relievers that are appropriate for you
  • Take certain vitamin or herbal supplements – discuss this with your doctor
  • Your doctor may consider oral contraceptives in the appropriate setting

Some of these measures are may take time to be effective.

It is always important to discuss breast changes or pain with your physician, have yearly screening mammograms beginning at age 40, and continue regular breast self examinations.

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