Breast pain has been reported by all ages of women and is known as mastalgia. This breast pain can occur both before and after menopause, but is most common in younger menstruating women. Breast pain is reported in nearly 70% of women at some point in their lives and only about 15% required medical attention. Breast pain and the severity can vary in location and occur in both breasts or only one, or the underarm. This can be from mild to severe and is most typically in the form of tenderness, sharp burning or even tightening of the breast tissue. Some hormonal changes can cause pain such as menstruation, pregnancy, lactation and menopause.
Some Common Causes of Breast Pain:
- Breast cysts – These come in all shapes and sizes and some might be a higher risk for development of painful breasts than others. Sometimes the breasts may develop milk duct or gland changes that will result in breast cyst forming.
- Some medications can contribute to breast pain that might include infertility treatments, oral hormonal contraceptives, postmenopausal estrogen and progesterone preparations, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, antidepressants, digitalis preparations, methyldopa, spironolactone, some diuretics, anadrol and chlorpromazine. If you are having breast pain and take any of these medications, consult your healthcare provider.
- Breast surgery and the formation of scar tissue can also lead to breast pain.
- Costochondritis is a type of arthritis that occurs where the ribs and breastbone connect and while not related to the breast, the burning pain caused by it can be confused with actual breast pain. This arthritis is seen in older adults and people with poor posture.
- Fibrocystic breast changes occur in women who are premenopausal and those undergoing treatment with hormone treatment, with lumpy, tender and swollen breasts caused by the buildup of fluid.
- Mastitis is a painful infection of the breast and most commonly occurring in lactating women due to a clogged milk duct.
- An improperly fitting bra without proper support can lead to breast pain.
- Breast cancers usually do not cause pain but if you have a lump, pain that is not resolved, nipple discharge, breast pain without a known cause or symptoms consistent with a breast infection as redness, pus or fever, see your doctor.
- Cyclic pain is described as pain that reflects hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle. About 75% of complaints are caused by these changes.
- Noncyclic pain is completely unrelated to the menstrual cycle and usually occurs more commonly in postmenopausal women between the ages of 40 and 50.
See your healthcare provider to determine the cause of your breast pain. Be sure to wear a supportive bra, limit intake of caffeine and sodium, apply hot or cold compresses, consume a low-fat diet, keep a healthy weight, take vitamins, use OTC meds as aspirin, try relaxation methods, consider cyst aspiration and keep a symptoms journal to work out your pain to determine if it’s cyclic or noncyclic.
Before any self-care techniques are used, be sure to see your physician for appropriate diagnosis. Some women may require medical intervention for their pain.
– Dr Fredda Branyon